Sunday, 10 August 2008

Why are our roads so clogged?

Sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 is my vision of hell. Unfortunately, I am driven to the depths of despair all to often as I have to regular use that infernal road. Why? I ask myself, why is driving in Britain such misery?

I thought some road usage statistics would be a good place to answer that question. Since 1993, the number of kilometres driven on UK roads has increased by almost 25 percent. During that period, I am fairly sure that we haven't built 25 percent more road capacity.

It would appear the answer is obvious; more driving but no extra roads; it follows that the roads are becoming more congested.

Who is doing all this extra driving. Again, according to the numbers, both private and heavy goods vehicles have increased their road usage by around 20 percent compared to 1993. Light vans are now driving 68 percent more kilometres .

Yes, it is the man in the white van who is responsible for blocking up our roads. Today, light vans drive one in eight kilometres on UK roads. However, identifying the villian was the easy part. Providing an answer to our horrendous traffic evades me.


Patrick Crozier said...

Queues, congestion and shortages are always the result of demand exceeding supply. Demand can only exceed supply if the price is set too low. So, isn't the answer to increase the price? in this case the price to use the roads.

Alice Cook said...

Patrick, your logic is correct. Where do I pay? Alice


Like your suggestion - only the wealthy and important people should have cars, the peasants, should have to use trains, trams and buses - roll on the green revoltion were only green hypercrites like Sam Branson or Zac Goldsmith have cars

Have you thought through what you are saying? At least White vans/Trucks are delivering or picking up goods.

What were you doing on the M25? Did you really need to be their?
Have you thought that without the option of living in a car dependant suburb, you would have to return to the high rise tenemants.

British Banker said...
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Anonymous said...

Alice: "your logic is correct. Where do I pay?"

The problem is folk who use the roads (assuming they pay road tax), and fuel duty already pay much more than the amount spent on the road network. Vehicle excise duty, VAT on new vehicle purchases, vat on fuel (and by the way excice duty on fuel).

What we ought to have is, in the jargon, hypothecation of road related taxes.

powerman said...

I wouldn't claim it's a major component, but I suspect that the housing bubble played a part. I have a hunch that there are a lot of people travelling further for work because they couldn't afford to buy a home in the city in which they work. I'm a case in point. I bought in 2002, but I couldn't afford to buy in the provincial city where I work, I had to buy in a market town 15 miles away. I suspect there are a lot of people like me filling up the roads at rush hour.

I use public transport on Fridays so I can have a beer with my colleagues after work, and it ads 45 minutes to my journey. I would honestly have much prefered to buy a place in the city, and cycle to work. It would be cheaper, more convienient and better for my health, but I just could not find a place that I could afford suitable to raise my first child in.

powerman said...

"Queues, congestion and shortages are always the result of demand exceeding supply. Demand can only exceed supply if the price is set too low. So, isn't the answer to increase the price? in this case the price to use the roads."

Another answer to this price problem would be to leave the price the same, but divert more of the revenue towards road building to increase supply.

Anonymous said...

In 1987 a basic runabout like a Citroen AX cost £5000 - any of five or six manufacturers competed at that price. I suppose one can get a basic motorised shopping trolley for £6000 now. Wages have more than doubled over that time.

Consequence: I guess twice as many vehicles.

I suppose over the last fifteen years the real price has gone down by a third, so the traffic has gone up by a quarter.

It's not unusual for a three-bed student semi to park three or four cars parked outside, sometimes more.

That's deflation. Everybody's kids have cars, and businesses can run more vehicles.

B. in C.

electro-kevin said...
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electro-kevin said...

So people are driving new cars instead of old bangers like they used to. That's a good thing is it not ?

The cheap car theory doesn't answer the question of congestion - there was always motoring on the cheap except it was more dangerous than it is today.

Safety has improved because people can afford it.

The idea of taxing people more to drive cars or to force them to live in over priced accommodation in the city isn't the answer either. What are you suggesting, Patrick ? Make the quality of life even more shittier than it already is ? Is that your answer ???

The Nu Lab panacea to every single problem - tax, tax and more tax.

The cause of problem is quite simple and that is that there are far too many people in Britain.

That's not my fault. Why should I pay for it ?

You can't price me off the road now. I'll drive uninsured and risk imprisonment rather than have my right to personal transport removed from me by stealth - especially when the penalties for driving whilst untaxed and uninsured are far cheaper than the tax and insurance that I already pay.

wildgoose said...

One of the biggest causes has been the massive rise in immigration, most of it into the South East. When you suddenly add millions of people, most of whom gravitate to an already congested area, then you're bound to have trouble.

RenterGirl said...

Trains? Canals? And using shipping lanes close to the coast? And local produce? Airships? Working from home?

babatunde said...

Yep, it's the Poles to blame for the traffic, as well as the house price bubble, global warming and my inability to crack £200k a year consistantly.

Close the borders all will be solved

Anonymous said...

There's an easy answer to stopping all those horrible white vans - Get rid of the internet!

How do you think all Amazon deliveries get to their destinations?

Of cause then we'd lose your lovely blog, and we wouldn't be able to read about how annoyed you're getting being stuck on the M25 every day.

mikey said...


*shoots self in face, twice, just to make sure*.

Miles are how we measure distance in this country...check the next sign post you drive past and see if I'm not lying

Alice Cook said...


I am with you on this one.

The data source, however, is thoroughly frenchified. They use KMs and not our miles. Personally, it is an ethical issue. I don't feel I should mess around with their measuring sticks.