Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Cars in London

From our Swindon Correspondent:

From On London

On the face of it, then, we’ve seen red route traffic increase since March to a point where it is just a few per cent less than was normal pre-Covid for this time of year. If that is a trend and it continues, we seem to be on course for red route mileage to revert to what it used to be some time in the autumn and possibly continue to rise. If that happens, it will hard to make the case that a “car-led recovery” isn’t happening. Meanwhile, the Tom Tom traffic flow measure of all London traffic indicates that congestion is pretty much back to as bad as ever.
The thing with roads is that those “few per cent” are significant. A traffic jam doesn’t mean a road is at 150% capacity. It’s much lower than that. When you have a school holiday, roads run fine, even though maybe only 10% of staff are out. And I think that jams have always had a finite limit. When roads reached a certain level of congestion, people would change how they lived, maybe move somewhere, take a job in another direction etc.
The effect of that 6% fall in traffic is that congested peaks are much flatter. Dave Hill is just wrong in terms of the Tom Tom data. If you look at the weekly congestion at https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/traffic-index/london-traffic/, the morning congestion has pretty much disappeared compared to 2019. Traffic first thing in the morning is barely different to 11am traffic.

Of course, the pattern – insofar as we can be sure it is one – might change if confidence in using public transport returns and people begin using buses, the Underground and so on more and their cars less. Last week, demand for buses was around 65 per cent of normal and for the Tube around 45 per cent. Both, though particularly buses due to school holidays, always tend to be a bit quieter in August. Businesses and TfL alike will be hoping for a pick-up from September.

Well, maybe. I’m not so certain. See, the problem with trains (and I’ll include tube with this) is that people hate them. The establishment loves them and thinks they’re the future, and the cool kids, activists and train nerds love them, but the average farty who has to use them every day hates them. They get on a train where the roads are intolerable. Go onto west country rural trains and they’re mostly empty. Because why bother taking a train if a Toyota Corolla takes a similar time? And your Corolla won’t be cancelled over 2% of the time, won’t be delayed by over 10 minutes 7% of the time or go on strike.
If many rail and road passengers need to travel less, that frees up capacity on roads, allowing rail passengers to start driving more. And those passengers take that to a comfortable level.
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Mark in Mayenne
Mark in Mayenne
1 month ago

I used to travel into London from Staines a few times a week. There was a lot of noise about car pollution on the news etc at the time. I noticed that morning traffic was in slow decline over the years until the first big rail crash (Watford?) After which it quickly grew and kept growing.

james morgan
james morgan
1 month ago

My wife drives into London from just south of Guildford peak time three days a week. She used to have to get up around 6.15 to make it into Tooting by 9. Now she can leave it till 7.00 – leaves at 7.45 gets there no problem (40 miles but the last 5 are SW London total bollocks traffic).

Last edited 1 month ago by james morgan
MrVeryAngry
MrVeryAngry
1 month ago

And your old Corolla will be far far cheaper. You can buy a Corolla for 500 quid that will last you a couple of years. £250 per year plus modest fuel, servicing and tax costs is far far cheaper and far far more convenient that a twice a day rattler that does not take you door to door.

johnd2008
johnd2008
1 month ago

Its not just London.When I lived in West Cumbria, a friend visited from near Preston travelling by train. In the evening I took her to the local unmanned station to return home. After waiting for a train that failed to arrive it turned out that the train had been cancelled as the driver had not shown up for work. I had to drive her to Barrow in Furness to find another train, a journey of 40+ miles each way for me. Travel by train if there is another way? No thanks.

john77
john77
1 month ago

Part of the trouble with driving in London is that the buses are so appallingly bad that many people drive just to avoid needing to use a bus. Anyone who had used buses elsewhere knew they didn’t *have* to be that bad (my home town, even with a Labour-controlled council, managed to run a cheap and reliable bus service, Oxford did too, and I have happy memories of MacBraynes buses in the Highlands in my childhood) but my experience of London’s, when I lived there was awful: 90% of the time it was quicker to walk. The last time I… Read more »

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