Fuel prices drive cars off the roads

The credit crunch and the rising cost of running a car has caused traffic on Britain's major roads to drop for the first time since congestion was measured, a report has revealed.

The study, which examined traffic on 34 motorways and trunk roads in England, Scotland and Wales, found congestion fell by 12 per cent in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period in 2007.

The route with the most dramatic fall in congestion was the northern section of the M25, which showed a 26 per cent reduction in traffic jams over the period measured. Journey times around Birmingham also improved markedly with a decrease of 9.9 per cent. Overall journey times have improved by 0.3 per cent even though the average speed of traffic slowed from 63.3mph to 62.2mph.

The report's publication follows figures released by the Department of Transport which show the number of cars on the road has decreased in the first two quarters of this year, compared with the same period last year. The number of new cars sold in Britain in July fell by 13 per cent from June. It was the sharpest decline since December 2006.

Experts said the credit crunch and the rising cost of petrol and road tax had contributed to people cutting back on car use. Petrol is now more than £1.20 per litre in some places, while a litre of diesel can cost as much as £1.40.

The journey-times index was collated by monitoring the number of alerts received by the traffic monitoring company Trafficmaster, which controls a network of 7,500 cameras on Britain's major motorways and trunk roads. They send alerts to a central computer when the average speed of traffic on any road falls below 20mph.

Based on the number of these alerts received every year, Trafficmaster then assesses the level of congestion across the road network. From June 2006 to June 2007, the company received 932,001 alerts, compared with 837,063 between June 2007 and June 2008.

It is the first time that congestion has eased as opposed to worsened in the four years that the journey time index has been collated.

Georgina Read, from Trafficmaster, said: "We have been monitoring traffic for a long time and trends don't just happen for no reason. In the past six months, congestion has eased quite significantly. The credit crunch is clearly the reason for that."

"Rising fuel prices and general economic concerns are making people think carefully about how they drive. The upshot of less traffic is a drop in congestion levels, meaning motorists can get from A to B quicker while travelling at slower and more economical speeds."

Elizabeth Dainton, a spokeswoman for the RAC Foundation, said: "Part of the reason for these decreases is simply that there are fewer cars on the road as the price of fuel is making it too expensive for people to drive.

"People's budgets are being squeezed and what is happening is that they are changing their driving habits. While they are not necessarily getting rid of their cars, they aren't driving as often or they are perhaps car-sharing to save money.

"The figures show that congestion has steadily continued to ease over the past six months. It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next year or so because the credit crunch looks like it's going to continue."

One of the findings of the report is that people are driving slower on the motorway to save fuel. Ms Dainton added: "It is true that people appear to be aware of what is known as eco-driving. They realise that if they drive slower they will be able to make a tank of fuel go that bit further. It's quite sensible when you consider most people will be paying upwards of £60 for a tank of fuel."

Hugh Bladon, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, agreed. He said: "It does not surprise me in the least to hear that the price of fuel and the country's economic situation is driving people off the road. I think that what is happening is that people are continuing to make necessary journeys, but they are cutting down on social driving."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Systems Developer Technical Lead

£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Energy Engineer

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment