This is how lockdown has changed the UK’s roads

New data from TomTom has revealed a significant drop in the number of people driving on the UK's roads during lockdown.

Traffic congestion across the UK has almost disappeared, since the government advised people to stay at home in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The chart below shows just how much congestion has decreased on London's normally busy roads.

The pattern is repeated across the country, with fewer vehicles on the roads everywhere.

In the UK's 25 largest cities congestion levels have dropped by an average of 57 perecentage points – from 73% to just 16%.


The congestion level at any given point is calculated by working out the extra time a driver will need to complete a journey due to traffic.

So if a trip takes 30 minutes on empty roads, but takes 45 minutes in traffic then the congestion level at that time is 50%.

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Data shared by location technology company TomTom shows that after the lockdown was announced the extra time drivers need to do a 30-minute trip went down by an average of 17 minutes.

This means that a 30-minute journey that took 52 minutes on the 3 March would have taken just 35 minutes on 24 March (17 minutes quicker than before).

However, some cities have experienced even bigger drops in road use.

Congestion levels in Manchester are down by 83%, with the extra time needed to complete a 30-minute trip decreasing by 22 minutes.

Brighton-and-Hove recorded a drop of 69% between March 3 and March 24, and the extra time needed to complete a 30-minute trip there decreased by 13 minutes.

The chart below shows the congestion level in cities across the UK.

The darker the shade of blue on a given day, the longer the extra time drivers in that city would need to complete a 30-minute ride.

The chart shows that roads first started to be less busy in mid-March, when the government announced that it would be closing schools.

The day after the lockdown was announced congestions levels went down ever further, and have remained low ever since.

Image: A giant television urges people to stay home on 26 March in Manchester

Over the Easter weekend there was almost no traffic in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

The pictures below compare the traffic volume in these three cities over Easter last year and this year – and show clearly how empty the roads now are.

There are four levels, with the red colour marking the highest and the grey colour representing the lowest level of traffic volume.

The use of public transport has also dropped, as many people are now working from home and not using it for their daily commute.

The Citymapper Mobility Index shows a 90% fall in the number of people using the app to plan their journies.

It's not just car drivers who are staying at home, footfall in retail areas is also significantly down as shops and businesses close their physical premises.

In March, footfall in retail destinations decreased by an unprecedented 41.3%, compared to the same period in 2019, according to Spingboard.

A quiet St David's shopping centre in Cardiff on March 23
Image: A quiet St David's shopping centre in Cardiff on 23 March

This is the lowest result since 2009, when they first started publishing data.

The decline was even highRead More – Source

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