SME profits hit as traffic jams hit ‘crisis level’

Traffic congestion is reaching crisis point across the UK, affecting both productivity and profitability, according to latest research from Close Brothers Asset Finance.

Congested road. Image: TomTom

41% of SMEs are seeing profits negatively affected by traffic congestion

The firm’s quarterly survey of businesses in the UK and Ireland found more than eight in 10 (83%) respondents feel that traffic congestion is ‘a problem’ with a further 65% thinking it’s getting more severe; only 17% feel it’s getting better and the remaining 18% are ‘unsure’.

Compounding the impact of congestion, 41% of SMEs are currently unable to trade at full capacity while 41% again are seeing their profits take a hit through lost productivity. In London the problem is particularly acute, where 62% are struggling to trade properly and 57% losing profits.

“A recent study confirmed that UK drivers wasted on average of 31 hours in rush-hour traffic last year, costing each motorist £1,168,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance. “The UK is the world’s 10th most congested country and London is Europe’s second most gridlocked city after Moscow. Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and Edinburgh complete the UK’s top five major areas affected.

“As an example, one of our employees recently spent over nine hours in a traffic jam after the Dartford crossing was closed. This effectively meant that as a business we lost a whole day’s worth of output, and this is replicated across the country, costing billions of pounds in lost productivity.”

The research also found businesses are split almost evenly over whether the UK’s road network can cope with existing traffic levels, with a 48% (yes) and 52% (no) split.

“What our research is telling us is that the solution to traffic congestion lies in a holistic approach, including road, rail, air and maritime,” said Davies. “A number of measures have had some success but it’s clear more needs to be done.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.