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Vans lead the way as traffic hurtles to record volumes

By: Dave Robbins
17 February 2017

Driven by the continuing popularity of online shopping – and the resultant increase in home deliveries – van traffic in the UK reached a record high in 2016.
Vehicles miles covered by vans across the country grew by 3.4% to a new annual record of 48.5bn miles, according to provisional figures for the year ended in December 2016 by the Department for Transport (DfT). The increase in van usage was reflected in what, potentially, will be a record year for new van registrations, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

In year-on-year increase terms, vans led the way, however heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) weren’t that far behind. They delivered a 2.8% increase, totting up a record 17.1bn vehicle miles. Interestingly the increase in car traffic wasn’t quite us marked, up by less than 1% (0.7%); however at 48.5bn that was still a new all-time record. Overall 320.5bn miles were travelled by all types of vehicle in the UK in 2016.

All of which is putting increased pressure on the UK road network. Traffic on motorways was up by 2.1%. Even ‘quieter’ rural roads are getting busier, showing a 2.5% increase. As you’d expect, our towns and cities are becoming increasingly gridlocked at peak times. London does, of course, lead the way as the UK city with the most traffic hotspots. Other places to avoid (if you can) include Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Bradford. The M25’s Junctions 15 (M4) and 16 (M40) pick up the somewhat unwanted mantle of worst motorway traffic hot spots.

According to traffic information firm INRIX, which compiled the figures on traffic hotspots, unless more action is taken to reduce congestion, by 2025, vehicles and drivers stuck in traffic will be costing the country an estimated £61.8bn. A situation described as “unsustainable” by the road safety charity ‘Brake’.

So what’s to be done? Here’s INRIX Chief Economist Graham Cookson’s take on the situation: “Only by identifying traffic hotspots and analysing their root causes can we effectively combat congestion. Some of the most effective traffic improvement measures have benefited from this approach, like TFL’s traffic signal optimisation work, which is reducing delays by 13%.”


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