The government has earmarked £15bn for its Road Investment Strategy in order to roll out 100 road improvement projects over the course of this parliament and the next.
A total of more than 1300 new lane miles will be added through the schemes, which will address traffic black-spots such as the A303 at Stonehenge in Wiltshire and the remaining single-lane sections of the A1.
A spokesman for The AA said: “The stats are moving in the wrong direction and commuting time is only going to get worse, particularly if you’re using urban A-roads to connect to the motorway for your journey.
“Unfortunately the £15bn isn’t going to help the urban A-roads improve as most of it will be spent on major projects. This leaves local authorities to improve these A-roads, and they don’t have the funds to do this.”
Provisional estimates indicate car traffic was higher than ever before on motorways and minor rural roads in the year ending March 2016.
Rolling annual motor vehicle traffic has now increased for each quarter in succession for three years. Van traffic continued to rise faster than any other vehicle type, increasing by 4.1% to a peak of 47.3bn vehicle miles.
Motorway traffic increased by 3% to 67.1bn vehicles miles and rural A-road traffic increased by 3% to 92bn miles, with both at their highest recorded levels.
Worst areas in the UK for traffic
The southeast accounted for the highest proportion of traffic, at 43bn vehicle miles - almost double the next-highest level in the east of England at 28bn vehicle miles. London accounted for 14.2bn miles, with Hillingdon, which incorporates Heathrow airport, highlighted as the most congested borough in the capital, recording 1.1bn miles on its own.
Greater Manchester and Kent account for some of the heaviest traffic in the UK, at 8.9bn miles and 7.1bn miles respectively.
The DfT said the growth in traffic volumes likely reflects the growth seen in the UK economy over the past year. Lower fuel prices were also cited as a potential factor for the increase in traffic.
The typical retail price of premium unleaded in the year ending March 2016 was 13.1 pence per litre cheaper than in the previous year, while diesel was 16.9 pence per litre cheaper.
RAC says Government needs to play catch up
RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said: “While traffic has only increased very slightly on the previous year, it has taken us to record levels. The longer-term picture is more concerning, with overall traffic since 1995 growing by 18.6% in stark contrast to the overall length of our roads, which has only increased by 2.4%.
“The data shows the length of motorways increased by 11.8%, however in the same period traffic levels on motorways increased by 44%, demonstrating that major road usage is outstripping road space.”
The DfT statistics also reveal that the number of cars in Britain has shot up by 43% in the past 20 years, from 21m in 1995 to more than 30m in 2015, yet in that time the length of the country’s roads has only increased by just under 6000 miles.
Lyes said: “Having a road network that is fit for purpose, in terms of being able to cope with increased traffic as well as being maintained to an acceptable level, is vital for a prosperous economy.
“There is little doubt that the government’s Road Investment Strategy recognises the importance of this, but these figures show there is a lot of catching up that must be done.”