Traffic congestion soared in cities across England this morning, as returning school and college students avoid public transport.
Tailbacks on Manchester’s roads jumped by 20% at 8am on Monday, according to satnav firm TomTom. The city saw 45% congestion during the morning rush, compared with just 25% at the same time last week.
Hold-ups in London jumped by 19% – from 34% last Monday to 53% this morning. Jam severity also jumped by 15% in Leicester (from 26% to 41%), 4% in Liverpool (from 35% to 39%) and 4% in Birmingham (from 29% to 33%).
Per cent congestion levels reflect how much extra time a journey takes drivers when compared with ideal, free-flowing traffic conditions.
TomTom’s figures indicate that this morning’s jams were worse than last September 2, when many pupils returned to school after the first national Covid lockdown.
Congestion was 24% in Manchester, 41% in London, 39% in Leicester, 27% in Liverpool, and 25% in Birmingham, on that day.
Stephanie Leonard, TomTom’s head of traffic innovation and policy called this morning’s rush back to the roads “a significant increase in traffic congestion”.
She added: “This could indicate that while the country is taking its first steps back to normality, the car continues to be the preferred choice of transport for many parents during the pandemic.”
Edmund King, president of motoring organisation the AA, said: “Many parents are probably cranking up their car as they don’t want their schoolchildren risking public transport.”
He urged motorists to carefully check cars which have been little used for weeks and allow extra time for journeys, adding that the return of the school run would see rush hour take place earlier in the day.
Car use currently stands at two-thirds (66%) of pre-pandemic use, according to latest Department for Transport figures – passenger demand for buses outside London and railways nationwide are at 31% and 17% of normal, respectively.
Train operators including GWR, Greater Anglia, Southeastern, West Midlands Trains and TransPennine Express ramped up services on Monday in response to schools reopening, having cut timetables at the start of the third lockdown.
Extra staff have been deployed at key stations to provide travel information and carry out enhanced cleaning regimes.