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New inrix study reveals car traffic in london is down but congestion is up

LONDON, UK – 17 May 2016

INRIX “London Congestion Trends” report reveals the reasons for London’s growing traffic problem; identifies roadworks and goods vehicles as main causes of congestion.

  • Traffic congestion in London has risen noticeably since 2012, with journey times in Central London increasing by 12% annually
  • Car traffic, including taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs), is decreasing in Central London and the Congestion Charge Zone; meaning these vehicles are not causing the rise in congestion
  • Travel demand on London’s roads is flat or decreasing in Central London; increased use of public transport and other modes may explain why traffic volumes haven’t risen
  • Substantial planned roadworks in London, having increased by 362% since 2012, and an overall 7.7% rise of light goods vehicles (LGVs) [i] are major causes of congestion

INRIX, a global leader for connected car technology and transportation analytics, has published its “London Congestion Trends”report, an in-depth study of the causes of traffic congestion in London between 2012 and 2015. This follows the annual INRIX Traffic Scorecard, which identified London as Europe’s most congested city in 2014 and 2015.

Congestion in London is increasing, with journey times in Central London growing by 12% annually, according to the study. This is consistent with data that shows that the London economy and population are growing, which normally results in an increase in gridlock. Further, unemployment and fuel prices are down, both of which usually mean a rise in traffic. Despite this, car travel – defined as private cars, taxis and PHVs – has decreased in the Congestion Charge Zone and Central London since 2012, and overall demand for road travel has remained flat.

The analysis also found that there is a much greater reliance on public transport and other modes, to meet the demand for travel fueled by London’s strong economic growth and record population levels. Of note, London Underground saw passenger numbers increase by 3.2% from 2014 to 2015 – surpassing the levels seen during the 2012 Olympic Games, while cycling has also seen a dramatic upturn, with 12% more people commuting to work and travelling by bike in the past year alone.

This may explain flat traffic volumes in London, but it does not explain increasing congestion. Road supply is restricted by planned and unplanned incidents, and between 2012 and 2015, the duration of planned roadworks in London rose by 362%, resulting in 2,437 hours of disruption. This is one of the primary causes of increased congestion in the capital. The number of hours roads were disrupted by unplanned incidents, such as accidents, also increased, rising by 23% over the same period.

Another cause of increased gridlock in London is likely a result of the booming ecommerce market, which is expected to top £60 billion in the UK in 2016[ii]. This may have spurred a sharp increase in the number of delivery vans on London’s roads. For example, the study found that the volume of light goods vehicles (LGVs) in the Congestion Charge Zone, which account for more than 17% of all vehicles, is increasing year-on-year, and increased by 7.7% over the study period.

“It is easy to speculate on the causes of congestion in London, but solving this problem requires a deeper understanding and awareness of the true factors,” said Dominic Jordan, Chief Data Scientist, INRIX. “Through road improvements, TfL is making significant efforts to future-proof the city, which will benefit both road users and the London economy. However, our study shows that roadworks like these, as well as a rise in goods vehicles, are the major causes of congestion in the capital.

Today, INRIX will present the findings of the report to a group of senior policymakers at an event hosted by London First, a non-profit organisation comprised of business leaders in London.

David Leam, Infrastructure Director at London First, commented: “London’s roads are increasingly congested, but this isn’t down to a boom in car journeys. As this report shows, car traffic is actually decreasing in central London, while van traffic and roadworks have risen significantly. What’s needed is for the new Mayor to ease off excessive roadworks, build new river crossings, devise a plan for managing freight, and revisit measures to control congestion, including charging.”

Minimal Impact by Private Hire Vehicles
For INRIX to be able understand the potential impact on congestion due to the increase in private hire vehicle registrations, data from Uber was acquired to address this area specifically.

While there has been an increase in PHV registrations in London, in 2015 only 3% of the total number of registered vehicles in the capital were PHVs and taxis. The report summarised that these vehicles were not key contributors to congestion as data indicates that only 5.9% of all Uber trips, for example, were in the Congestion Charge Zone during charging hours (7am to 6pm).

In addition, data from Transport for London (TfL) supports the finding that PHVs and taxis have had a low impact on congestion in London. When analysed further, PHVs and taxis together only account for one out of every four vehicles in a traffic stream crossing the Congestion Charge Zone boundary.

With as much as 23% of Uber travel occurring between midnight and 5am, the study concluded that Uber vehicles complement the London transport mix and provide additional travel choices for consumers during times when public transport is limited or unavailable and when roads are quieter.

– ENDS –

Notes to Editors
Following the publication of the annual INRIX Traffic Scorecard, Uber commissioned this study in order to better understand the causes of the rise in traffic congestion in London.

Traffic congestion is caused when the demand for space on the road network exceeds the supply. In order to understand the changes in the supply and demand elements, INRIX analysed data from a range of high quality sources, including the Department for Transport, Transport for London and the Office for National Statistics, along with INRIX’s own traffic data and trip data from Uber.

This study utilises information from 2012 to 2015 from these data sources to consider each of the factors that could impact congestion and to build up a multi-faceted picture of the causes of congestion.

[i]LGV includes all goods vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight. This includes all car delivery vans and those of the next larger carrying capacity such as transit vans. Most of this group are delivery vans of one type or another. Source: http://www.tamesoftware.co.uk/manuals/COBA_MANUAL/COBA11%20Part%204%20(July%202014).pdf

[ii] http://www.retailgazette.co.uk/blog/2015/09/uk-e-commerce-to-top-ps60bn-in-2016

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