Rise in European road congestion outstrips Britain

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The Independent Online

Motorists caught in Christmas traffic jams in Britain can console themselves with the news that those venturing on to the Continent could face far worse problems.

Motorists caught in Christmas traffic jams in Britain can console themselves with the news that those venturing on to the Continent could face far worse problems.

Congestion is growing up to five times faster on some European motorways, figures published yesterday by the car rental company Avis show.

The number of journeys on UK motorways between April and June 2002 rose 1.4 per cent compared with the same period last year. But the increase in Spain was as much as 7 per cent, Italy 5.6 per cent and Germany 2 per cent, according to the statistics taken from official sources. The figures showed that motorway journeys in Europe increased 2.8 per cent in April to June 2002, compared with the same period in 2001.

The news follows the Government's admission that road congestion in the UK was worse than predicted two years ago and that targets for reducing traffic jams by the end of the decade were unlikely to be met. Ministers' attempts to increase the number of people using trains by 50 per cent by the end of the decade also look under threat. Train travel in Britain declined 1.7 per cent – down by 4 million journeys between April-June 2001 and April-June 2002. In Spain rail travel rose 5.1 per cent, France 3.8 per cent, Italy 3 per cent and Germany 0.5 per cent.

The number of flights in and out of the UK in the second quarter of 2002 was down 0.8 per cent, but the figure for the whole of Europe was 4.9 per cent down. In Germany flights declined by 8.9 per cent, with France down 6.2 per cent and Italy 5.6 per cent.

The total number of journeys using all modes of transport in Europe rose 2.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2002 compared with the same period last year. Some 240 million more journeys were undertaken by plane, train, car and ferry.

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