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Traffic volumes exceed pre-lockdown levels

More vehicles on UK roads, but shape of traffic very different, says Transport Technology Forum

Mark Moran
10 June 2021
Changes in road traffic levels March 2020 to May 2021 (TTF)


Volumes in towns and cities surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time since travel restrictions were introduced in March last year reveals analysis of local authority traffic data by the Transport Technology Forum (TTF).

The TTF has been studying data on local roads in more than a hundred English local authority areas for more than a year, and its latest report for the week before the late May Bank Holiday suggests overall traffic levels are now varying by three percentage points either side of the baseline.

However, there is a clear change to the make-up of the traffic, with goods vehicles accounting for a greater proportion of all vehicles, while the afternoon peak is being observed to be significantly earlier.

The TTF’s analysts are now also receiving car park data, which suggests there has a predictable increase in the number of occupied spaces since the ease of lockdown restrictions, with daily occupancy rising steadily since 12 April. There is higher occupancy in the afternoon than the morning, reaching pre-lockdown levels.

This data suggests that the decrease in the number of car journeys due to people working from home may have been off-set by a rise in people choosing to drive rather than take public transport, and by more delivery vehicles being needed to fulfil demand for online shopping.

“We may be getting back the amount of traffic we were used to before the Pandemic, but the journey types and times are very different,” said Andy Graham of White Willow Consulting who works with the TTF. “This suggests that authorities may need to change the way manage their network to most efficiently cope with new shape of traffic.”

The Transport Technology Forum, which is funded by the Department for Transport, encourages the adoption of new ways of thinking and innovative technical solutions for the improvement of traffic flow through better network operation and management.

Senior Transport Modeller
Department for Transport
Birmingham, Leeds,London
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