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Britain’s roads more travelled than ever

Traffic levels are rising

The distance travelled by vehicles on Britain’s crowded roads exceeded the 500 billion kilometre (310 billion miles) mark for the first time last year.

Traffic levels rose 1.4 per cent to 507 billion vehicle kilometres in 2006, with car traffic accounting for 79 per cent of all motor vehicle traffic, figures published by the Department for Transport (DfT) showed.

Car traffic increased 1.3 per cent between 2005 and 2006 and has grown 12 per cent since 1996 and by a massive 851 per cent since 1955.

Peak speeds

The figures also showed that of the 18 largest urban areas in England, excluding London, average peak speeds were lowest in Leicester, Bristol and Southampton.

Off-peak speeds were low in Leicester and Bristol, with Blackpool also having a relatively low average off-peak speed.

The average traffic speed across the major road network of the largest 18 urban areas in England, excluding London, in 2006 was 17.8mph during the peak periods and 21.6mph during off-peak periods.

Van traffic

The DfT figures also showed:

  • Light van traffic has shown the greatest growth in recent years, increasing by 39 per cent since 1996
  • Pedal cycle traffic was estimated to have increased by 5 per cent in 2006 compared with 2005
  • Last year, 28 per cent of all traffic was on rural A roads, 22 per cent was on urban minor roads, 20 per cent on motorways, 16 per cent on urban A roads and 14 per cent on rural minor roads
  • Traffic on motorways has grown faster (27 per cent) over the past 10 years than on any other road type. Urban A roads have shown the slowest traffic growth since 1996, increasing by only 2 per cent
  • Overall, traffic was higher on weekdays than at weekends last year, with the highest level of traffic occurring on Fridays and the lowest on Sundays
  • The percentage of vehicles that exceed the speed limit on 30mph roads has fallen over the past 10 years. The proportion of cars exceeding the speed limit in 1996 was almost three quarters; in 2006 this figure had fallen to a half.

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