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Britain's traffic hotspots

Last month, the Department for Transport published Road Statistics 2009: Traffic, Speeds and Congestion, which contained information about – amongst other things – the busiest UK motorways.

It will probably come as no surprise whatsoever that the M25 tops the list of busiest motorways – in particular the western half. On average, 147,000 vehicles travel on the M25 every day.

It’s also likely to come as no surprise that it’s the most congested motorway. In fact, traffic on the M25 accounted for over 18 per cent of all vehicle delays on the inter-urban roads in England. So, if you’re heading for the M25, make sure you take some snacks – you might be in for a long ride.

So which are the UK’s busiest roads?

Here’s a chart reproduced from the Department for Transport’s report, showing the relative volume of traffic on the UK’s major motorways:

Average vehicle flows for major sections of the motorway network, Great Britain: 2005 and 2009
Souce: National Road Traffic Survey, Department for Transport


1. M25 - Western links from A1(M) to M23
2. M25 - Eastern links from A1(M) to M23
3. M60
4. M6 - South of M62 junction
5. M27
6. M62 - East of The Pennines (junction 22)
7. M1 - South of M6 junction
8. M1 - North of M6 junction
9. M42
10. M23
11. M4 - England
12. M56
13. M3
14. M40
15. M5
16. M62 - West of The Pennines (junction 22)
17. M8 - Scotland
18. M4 - Wales
19. M11
20. M20
21. M2
22. M6 - North of M62 junction
23. A1M
24. M73 - Scotland
25. M77 - Scotland
26. M74 - Scotland
27. M9 - Scotland
Do bear in mind that this does not necessarily equate directly with congestion… not in the least because some motorways may have more lanes, some may have less, and some may be beset by roadworks, for example.

How does this affect me?

Getting caught in traffic congestion is, of course, annoying. But more than that, it can be dangerous. Accidents are much more likely to happen on busy roads, so it’s worth avoiding roads with a high volume of traffic to prevent yourself from suffering a prang.

Accordingly, proximity to areas with a lot of congestion can have an impact on car insurance premiums. Which makes sense, as the higher likelihood of having an accident will mean a greater risk for the insurance provider.

Read our article 8 ways to cut car insurance costs here.

Top tips for avoiding congestion

  • Plan an alternative route ahead of time
  • Get live traffic news from the AA Roadwatch site
  • If you don’t have web access, listen to a local radio station for traffic reports
  • Invest in a sat nav

The future?

According to The RAC Foundation earlier this month, a ‘pay-per-mile’ system of road use is ‘inevitable’. Such a system of charging motorists for every mile they travel might employ a form of ‘black box recorder’ technology. This would essentially mean that drivers would think harder about how much they drive – planning routes better and reducing unnecessary journeys accordingly. Such a scheme would have to come with:

  • reductions in fuel duty and road tax;
  • a governing body to oversee the maintenance and enhancement of the road network;
  • guaranteed revenue put aside to pay for work;
  • a regulator to ensure work is done efficiently;
  • more reliable journey times, and possibly a system of compensation for delays.

As for urban areas, there is talk of rolling out a congestion charge system similar to that of London’s in other cities, including Bournemouth and York. The congestion charge has been really successful in the capital, in terms of getting people to cycle, walk and use public transport.

Plus, another interesting finding in the Department for Transport’s report is that overall traffic volume in the UK has dropped for the second consecutive year. This is actually the first time that this has happened since records began in 1949. The volume of traffic is still almost eight per cent higher than it was ten years ago, but might the more recent drop suggest that vehicle use in this country is beginning to plateau?

If I were to don my Tomorrow’s World hat, I’d say that the future of transport in this country is almost certainly jetpacks and hoverboards. But in the meantime, given the apparent saturation of motor vehicles, is it time to allow the public to use Segways?


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Owe Carter

Owe Carter

Owe Carter has been a consumer interest writer for since 2007. His career as a scribe began in local press, which saw him hunting ghosts, taking challenges from readers, living as B.A. Baracus for a week, and seeking out Pembrokeshire’s happiest dog.

Twitter: @ConfusedOwe
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