- This year, UK drivers lost a total of 73 hours each, up from 26 in 2019
- London became the most congested city in the world as drivers lost the most hours globally (148 hours)
- Exeter saw the largest increase in congestion with delays increasing by 27% from 2019
- Belfast saw the biggest drop in congestion with time lost down 47%
- Top 5 most congested cities in the world: London (148 hours), Paris (140 hours), Brussels (134 hours), Moscow (108 hours) and New York (102 hours)
LONDON – December 7, 2021 – As Covid-19 restrictions were eased across the UK, INRIX Inc., a world leader in transportation analytics and connected car services, has published the 2021 INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, revealing the full impact of pandemic recovery on UK roads.
Earlier this year, as cases fell across Europe and the UK, the “new normal” started to take shape. Remote work policies gradually eased, and people were encouraged to venture outside. The success of vaccine rollouts gave new hope to those wanting to resume life as it had been before the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, these changes spurred increases in domestic travel while and international travel still proved difficult in the early part of the year.
To quantify the impact of eased restrictions, the 2021 INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard identifies and ranks congestion and mobility trends across more than 1000 cities, across 50 countries – including the UK.
On average, British drivers lost 73 hours this year in traffic, up from 37 hours last year but down from 115 in 2019 pre-COVID. Nationally, Brits spent nearly 1 billion hours (980 million) sat in traffic costing £595 per driver and the country £8 billion.
Drivers in London, Cambridge, and Bristol lost the most time to traffic congestion (148, 75 and 66 hours respectively), despite seeing large reductions compared with 2019 (down 53%, 42% and 64% respectively). Exeter saw the largest increase in congestion with delays increasing by 27% from 2019.
Table 1: 10 Most Congested Urban Areas in the U.K.
|2021 UK Rank (2020)||Urban Area||Delay 2021 (2020) ||Compared to Pre-COVID||2021 Driver Cost||2021 City Cost||Downtown Trips|
|London||148 | (69) | ||-1%||£1,211||£5.1B||-13%|
|2 (29)||Cambridge||75 | (21) | ||7%||£618||£11M||0%|
|3 (3)||Bristol||66 | (37) | ||-36%||£542||£28MM||-28%|
|4 (29)||Exeter||71 | (18) | ||27%||£578||£36M||-4%|
|5 (31)||Cheltenham||71 | (20) | ||18%||£576||£140M||-4%|
|6 (20)||Manchester||62 | (23) | ||-33%||£502||£35M||-25%|
|7 (7)||Belfast||60 | (31) | ||-46%||£487||£32M||-12%|
|8 (12)||Birmingham||53 | (26) | ||-34%||£434||£123M||-23%|
|9 (15||Nottingham||58 | (26) | ||-26%||£469||£65M||-24%|
|10 (9)||Hull||56 | (31) | ||-25%||£459||£226M||-9%|
City-centre trips increase as restriction are eased
Pre-pandemic, much of the UK’s traffic congestion centred around commutes to, from and within city centres. As the closure of offices, restaurants, entertainment, fitness centres and other brick-and-mortar storefronts, along with limits on gatherings were imposed, trips fell leading to large reduction in 2020. The trend has reversed as restrictions have been eased but has not returned to pre-COVID levels and most cities still saw lower numbers than 2019 levels.
Cities in the UK reacted strongly to lockdown measures. During the first UK lockdown, travel to city centres dropped 75% in April 2020. The lifting of that lockdown on June 1st 2020 led to strong rebounds in city centre activity. However, trips to city centres had dropped again in November 2020, as the UK’s second lockdown came into force. By February 2021, the UK entered its third lockdown – coinciding with new COVID-19 variants being discovered. This resulted in a 52% retraction in trips to city centres among major cities analysed.
As lockdowns and other restrictions were lifted, people returned to city centres but not at the same levels as 2019. London experienced a 13% drop in travel to the city, as remote and hybrid work continued. Bristol saw the largest drop in drivers to the city centre with trips down 28%. In fact, only Cambridge saw traffic levels remain the same or higher in the UK’s top 10.
The Most Congested Corridors in the UK.
Throughout the country, delays on the busiest corridors decreased versus 2019. In 2020, the five busiest corridors were all in London – the A503 E/B, the A2 W/B, and A406 North Circular Road E/B (with 42, 39 and 38 hours respectively). Outside of London, the busiest corridors were Belfast’s A644 East, Birmingham’s A435 South and Liverpool’s Queens Drive (with 15, 14 and 14 hours respectively).
Table 2: Most Congested U.K. Roads in 2021 (London/Rest of UK)
|Rank||Urban Area||Road Name||From||To||Avg. Peak Delay (mins)||Peak Hour||2020 Hours Lost|
|1||London||A503 E/B||Camden High Street||B152 St Ann’s Road||11||16:00||42|
|2||London||A2 W/B||Shooter’s Hill Road||Bricklayers Arms||10||08:00||39|
|3||London||A406 North Circular Road E/B||Henly’s Corner||Arnos Grove||10||16:00||38|
|4||London||A501 E/B||Edgware Road||Old Street Roundabout||9||08:00||35|
|5||London||A205 W/B||Clifton’s Roundabout||Stanstead Road||8||08:00||33|
|Rest of UK|
|1||Belfast||A644 East||M62||Church Lane||6||16:00||15|
|2||Birmingham||A435 South||Haden Circus Roundabout||Woodthorpe Rd||7||16:00||14|
|3||Liverpool||A5058 Queens Drive East||A59 County Rd||Bowring Park Rd||5||16:00||14|
|4||Birmingham||A440 North||Worcester Rd||A451 Roundabout||5||16:00||12|
|5||Edinburgh||A702 South||A700 Brougham St||The City of Edinburgh Bypass||5||16:00||11|
How U.K. Cities Compare to Top Cities Worldwide
At the global level, London topped the list of cities most impacted by traffic congestion with drivers losing 148 hours a year to congestion (-1% from 2019) followed by Paris, Brussels, Moscow and New York City. In Europe, St Petersburg saw the greatest reductions in delays compared to 2019, dropping 50%. Nimes in France, however, saw congestion nearly double (98% increase) compared to 2019.
Table 3: 10 Most Congested Cities in the World in 2021
|2020 Congestion Rank (2019)||Urban Area||Country||2021 Hours Lost||Compared to normal||2021 Last Mile Speed||Last mile speed over normal|
|5 (3)||New York, NY||USA||102||-27%||13||18%|
|6 (7)||Chicago, IL||USA||104||-28%||15||36%|
Access to reliable data is the first step in tackling congestion. Applying big data to create intelligent transportation systems is key to solving urban mobility problems. INRIX data and analytics on mobility, traffic and traffic signals, parking and population movement help city planners and engineers make data-based decisions to prioritise spending to maximise benefits and reduce costs now and into the future.
The key findings of the INRIX 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard provide a quantifiable benchmark for governments and cities across the world to measure progress to improve urban mobility and track the impact of spending on smart city initiatives.
Please visit www.inrix.com/scorecard for:
- Full 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard report, including rankings for the U.K., US., and Germany
- Interactive webpage with data and information for more than 1000 cities and 50 countries
- Complete methodology
Notes to Editors:
INRIX fuses anonymous data from diverse datasets – such as phones, cars, trucks and cities – that leads to robust and accurate insights. The data used in the 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard is the congested or uncongested status of every segment of road for every minute of the day, as used by millions of drivers around the world that rely on INRIX-based traffic services.
The 2021 Scorecard builds upon the methodology adopted two years ago by identifying multiple commute areas within cities, capturing each city’s own unique mobility profile. Furthermore, the 2021 Scorecard analyses travel times, miles-travelled, trip characteristics and the impact of incidents on congestion within a city. From this multifaceted approach, a holistic understanding is achievable in an increasingly complex landscape.
The INRIX 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard calculates time lost in congestion by employing traffic data across multiple commute sub areas within a city. Commute sub areas are identified based upon the concentration of trips concluding within a defined area. An economic analysis was performed to estimate the total cost to the average driver in a city, and a total cost to the city population. Worst corridors are limited to those that have the highest traffic volume and are ranked by the average hours of delay per driver in 2021. Additional metrics are available online and in the full report.