The Times, 24 August 2015, Kaya Burgess
London may consider itself to be the cultural capital of Europe, but it has also become the traffic capital, stealing top spot as the most congested city on the continent for the first time.
Drivers in London spend four whole days (96 hours) each year stuck on the capital’s traffic-choked roads — almost twice as long as the 52 hours drivers lose in Manchester each year.
London was ranked eighth in 2011, but climbed to third in 2012. It overtook Antwerp, in Belgium, in 2013 to take second spot, and has this year overtaken Brussels to top the list of Europe’s most congested cities, helping move the UK up to fifth place in the list of the worst affected European countries.
The five most gridlocked roads in Britain are all in the capital, with drivers on the A217 losing 139 hours, or almost six days, per year in jams. Motorists using the A215 and A4 in London also lose more than 100 hours a year in tailbacks.
Inrix, the transport analysts, found that London drivers spent an average of 14 hours more in traffic in 2014 compared with 2013. The worst areas in the UK after London are Greater Manchester, Merseyside, greater Belfast and greater Birmingham. Drivers across the UK lost an average of 30 hours in traffic in 2014.
Researchers attributed the rise in traffic delays to a growth in the economy and increased employment. Bryan Mistele, from Inrix, said: “The strong growth of the UK economy and rise in urban populations have resulted in an increase in the demand for road travel, significantly driving up levels of congestion across the country.”
Garrett Emmerson, from Transport for London, said: “We are seeing unprecedented increases in population and this, combined with strong economic growth and the consequent increase in building and construction, creates more traffic.”
Inrix’s report said: “Of the 12 European countries analysed in the report, more than half (53 per cent) experienced a rise in levels of congestion in 2014 compared to 2013, reflective of steady economic growth. Nations struggling with high unemployment and low or negative economic growth typically recorded lower levels of traffic congestion compared to 2013.”
Belgium ranked as the most congested country, with drivers losing 58 hours to jams each year. Dutch drivers lose 45 hours, Germans lose 35 and Luxembourgers 32 hours, the data show. London’s high level of congestion comes despite the fact that, in the 2011 census, London had the lowest proportion of people commuting by car or van, at only 26.3 per cent, a fall from 33.5 per cent in 2011.
Manchester ranks 11th in the list of Europe’s most congested cities, with Merseyside 22nd and Belfast 25th.
Analysts at Inrix said that Europe remains “on the long road to gridlock” and warned that the problem could not be fouight “by simply adding lane miles in the metropolitan areas”.
The authorities in London are building a series of cycle superhighways crisscrossing the capital to create a safe environment that will encourage more people to commute by bicycle.
Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said last year: “Central London is still dominated by motor vehicles . . . We are reducing that dominance, making the centre more pleasant for the vast majority and allocating road space to reflect the actual usage of central London roads.”