Britain’s roads are getting busier, with total traffic volume increasing. Figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that vehicle traffic rose by 1.3% between 2012 and 2013 to 306.4 billion vehicle miles.
The figures underline the importance of the Government’s £24bn commitment to investing in new road schemes over the next eight years.
The light goods vehicle (LGV) sector experienced the sharpest increase in traffic, up 3.9%.
LGV traffic is estimated to be around 20% higher than it was 10 years ago, while HGV traffic is estimated to be around 11% lower – a clear indication of downsizing among fleet operators.
Quarter 4 2013 saw the highest quarterly van traffic figure since records began in 1993. It totalled 10.9 billion vehicle miles, 3.4% higher than in the same quarter in the previous year.
Cars and taxis accounted for 79.1% of all motor vehicle traffic last year, broadly similar to the proportions recorded over the past six years.
Meanwhile, motorway traffic has continued to increase since 2010, reaching a new peak in 2013 of 64.3 billion vehicle miles. This represented a 3% increase from 2012.
Traffic on urban ‘A’ roads decreased by 0.2% in 2013 compared to 2012, while rural ‘A’ roads (0.1%) and minor roads (rural 2.3% and urban 1.5%) experienced increases in traffic volumes.
The estimates are based on traffic data collected continuously from a national network of around 200 Automatic Traffic Counters (ATCs).
These also record some of the physical properties of passing vehicles which are used to classify traffic by vehicle type.
Looking at influencing factors, the DfT highlighted how traffic levels change with the economy.
GDP rose over the course of 2013, which suggests that economic growth may have contributed to the upward trend in traffic volumes.
Extreme weather conditions, such as heavy snowfall, can also have an impact. For example, in 2012 there was a large amount of rainfall which may have put people off making trips. This may be a factor adding to the increase in traffic volumes observed by the 2013 provisional estimates.