Traffic volumes reach highest ever level
The data, which covers October 2014 to September 2015, gives a provisional figure of 316.1 billion vehicle miles for the year – marking the highest rolling annual total ever and 0.6% higher than the pre-recessional peak in the year ending September 2007.
Compared to the previous year, in the year ending September 2015:
- Car traffic increased by 1.7%.
- Van traffic continued to rise faster than any other vehicle type, increasing by 6.0% to a new peak of 46.9 billion vehicle miles.
All road classes experienced higher volumes of traffic, with traffic on rural minor roads increasing the fastest, at 5.8%. Motorway traffic increased by 2.0% to 65.4 billion vehicle miles, the highest ever level.
DfT data also shows that morning commuting speeds fell. The average speed on local ‘A’ roads in England during the weekday morning peak in the year ending September 2015 fell 0.5% to 23.6mph compared to the year ending June 2015.
The DfT said the upward trend in traffic volumes is likely to reflect growth in the UK economy as well as lower fuel prices.
In response, RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “The lower cost of fuel is clearly keeping the country moving with increased vehicle miles going above the pre-recession high. The rise in van traffic and the record level of motorway usage are also significant as they are both very good indicators that ‘business Britain’ is productive.
“The RAC has long argued that the price of fuel is inextricably linked to the economy so this is further proof of that and something the Government should take heed of. What we need now is a firm commitment from the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement that he will not raise fuel duty from the already-excessive 58p a litre and add to the motoring tax burden. Britain’s motorists already pay in excessive of £40bn a year in fuel duty, VAT on fuel, insurance tax and vehicle excise duty so are more than helping in plugging the deficit.
“Any increase in fuel duty would have to be seen as an opportunistic step for the Government to cash in on low oil prices which are predicted to stay that way for some time to come.”
Commenting on the decline in commuting speeds, Pete Williams added: “Since early 2012, motorists in all regions have been experiencing a slower and slower start to their working days, with average morning speeds on A-roads falling. Our roads are getting busier, meaning the network each morning is under real strain in certain locations. Many improvement schemes are already underway and further investment is just around the corner, but it will certainly be a case of congestion having to get worse before it gets better. Weary motorists are likely to feel more ‘rushtration’ on their morning commute for a fair while yet.
“It is absolutely critical that the investment into A-roads and the wider Strategic Network is protected and for the Government to push ahead with identifying key pinch points for a second road investment strategy. Motorists will be unforgiving should they not start to see genuine improvements in journey times over the next five years given the eye-watering sums they pay in taxation.”