Reduction in traffic contradicts Goverment's proposed toll scheme
11 October 2008

Traffic and congestion on Britain’s roads is dropping for the first time since the 1970s, undermining the case for the Government’s national road tolling scheme.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has recorded a drop in road traffic during two consecutive quarters of this year. Its figures show a 2.2 per cent average reduction in traffic across the nation. The slowest ten percent of journey times, on the most congested roads in the country, have also improved.

The news appears to contradict the Government’s case for the road tolling trials announced last week, which was justified as the only way to avoid what Transport Secretary Paul Clark described as “gridlock”. The system will require motorists to fit a satellite tracking box in their car and set up an account that could be debited depending on where and when they drive, with users being charged up to £1.30 a mile on the busiest routes.

The decline in traffic levels is thought to be caused by both the economic slowdown and rising oil prices, with many car users choosing to drive less. The RAC Foundation recently released a report that suggested the Government should seriously consider building more roads to beat congestion.

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Unfortunately, traffic figures for major urban areas including London were unavailable from the DfT due to a ‘technical fault’. This makes it impossible to gauge the true effect on London’s Congestion Charge zone of the slowing economy.

Will Powell

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