Congestion Update

Congestion starts to increase - but is it the end of the recession?

16 November 2009

After tracking consistent falls in congestion throughout 2009 as recorded in their recent Commuting – Congestion Report, Trafficmaster has now recorded an 11% increase in congestion levels since the end of September, compared to the same period in 2008, but it has been very uneven across the country.

The most significant increases in congestion levels have been recorded on the Western Sector of the M25 at +50%; the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge which has seen a 45% increase, and the M6 in Staffordshire with a 32% increase.

Other regions have seen little change or a further drop in congestion with the M62/M621 in West Yorkshire dropping by 18%.


"There are several factors to bear in mind, when looking at these figures," said Georgina Read of Trafficmaster. "The period we are comparing this with of October 2008 was at the height of the recession with the biggest recorded drops in congestion we saw that year, so to see an increase is good news but it still doesn't put us anywhere near pre-recession levels.

"Also the changes have been inconsistent across the country, although roadworks and some major incidents have influenced figures as well. Overall, our conclusions are that there is an upward trend in congestion levels but this is prevalent on Mondays and Fridays so there is an element of 'leisure' traffic in this, particularly with the unseasonably warm, dry Autumn weather."

"Routes which are known to carry a lot of HGV and commuter traffic, such as the M62 and M621 in West Yorkshire; the southern stretch of the M1 and the Northern Sector of the M25 are all still showing drops in congestion of -18%, -19% and -2% respectively. So while increased congestion levels may be indicative of the start of economic recovery in parts of the country, others are still seeing less traffic – commuter, HGV and leisure – on the roads, indicating that we are not out of the recession yet. Trafficmaster will continue to monitor congestion levels and be issuing regular updates to see how it changes in line with the overall health of the UK economy."

Edmund King, AA president, said: "Although we don't welcome an increase in congestion, we do welcome the fact that it indicates that the economy is picking up. Our nation is dependent on road travel and congestion acts as a barometer of economic activity. The message to Government and highway authorities is that we need to continue investing in our road infrastructure as a means of boosting economic activity. Our earlier report indicated big drops in congestion but despite increasing fuel prices congestion seems to be on the increase since September."

Key findings

Trafficmaster's key interim congestion level findings are as follows:

  • M25 Western sector - up 50% (partly affected by roadworks)
  • A14 Huntingdon-Cambridge - up 45% (affected by major closure due to fire damage after incident)
  • M6 Staffs, Cheshire and Lancs - up 32%
  • A34 Oxford-Newbury - up 16%
  • M1 East Midlands - up 14%
  • M6 West Midlands - up 6%
  • M4 London-Severn Bridge - up 3%
  • A3 through Hindhead - up 1%
  • M25 Northern sector - down 2%
  • M62/M621 West Yorkshire - down 18%
  • M1 Southern sector - down 19%

The next Congestion Update from Trafficmaster and the AA will be issued in the first Quarter 2010.

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17 November 2009