Congestion – Commuting

An Economic Barometer

7 September 2009

Record drop in congestion reflects economic crisis according to joint AA/Trafficmaster report

Britain's road network is wearing the scars of the economic climate on its sleeve, according to a new report published today by Trafficmaster and the AA. Indeed the report shows that since the subsequent economic decline when the credit crunch began two years ago, there has been a dramatic 31% reduction in road congestion across all major motorways and trunk roads.

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Furthermore, the report also shows that congestion levels have become inextricably linked to major financial events and the economic climate, such as rising fuel prices and the collapse of Northern Rock. Gloomily, with the increase in unemployment and the report's findings that nearly a quarter of those not working have lost their jobs over the last 12 months, rush hour is now also becoming redundant, influencing the overall congestion figures.

Whilst congestion has dramatically dropped across the road network in the normal working week, the credit crunch has also delivered another phenomenon. Spiked rises in congestion have appeared on Fridays, school and Bank holiday getaways. With the cost of holidays in the UK cheaper than abroad, we have seen up to a 50% increase in congestion at these times as additional leisure traffic hits the roads. What's more weekend breaks seem to be more popular as people are cutting back on the length of time they spend away – Friday is the only day of the week that is bucking the trend of a decrease in congestion levels.

The findings come from 'Congestion – Commuting, An Economic Barometer ', a new report written and researched by Trafficmaster, the leading expert in road traffic information, and the AA. The report is based on comprehensive traffic information collated by Trafficmaster over the past five years and commuting behaviour research from the AA and its AA/Populus panel of 75,000 drivers.

Report findings

The report shows that:

  • An astounding 23% of those not working said that they had lost their job in the last 12 months. This has had a definite effect on the morning and afternoon rush hours. This has certainly had a huge impact on weekday morning peak times which have seen the biggest decrease in congestion, with an overall average reduction of 15%.
  • 20% of all commuters surveyed said that the economic circumstances had led them to work from home more regularly to avoid the cost of commuting. In addition 14% had used public transport, whilst 12% had shared cars to reduce the cost of commuting.
  • 67% of commuters said they would double the distance travelled in their daily commute in order to keep their job. A statistic that may well impact future congestion levels.


Georgina Read at Trafficmaster, comments: "We've been collecting and analysing congestion data for the past 20 years, with all previous years up to 2007 showing the congestion problem growing. However, post credit crunch, the trend has been well and truly broken and we've now witnessed two consecutive years of dramatically falling congestion levels."

Edmund King, AA president, concludes: "The report brings both good news and bad news; it shows that congestion is falling, but also that this is due to the recession, fuel prices and unemployment. The motor vehicle is an integral part of British culture and our lifestyle that we have come to rely on – whether that is getting to work, taking the kids to school or delivering our goods. So when times are hard it is with reluctance that we look at ways of cutting down on car journeys and using alternative modes of transport. This only strengthens our need to keep investing in the road infrastructure, so that when the recession ends we have a network that can support a thriving economy."


Commuting figures are from an AA/Populus panel survey of 8,808 drivers surveyed between 30th June and 6th July 2009.

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7 September 2009