Report on Motoring 2016

Congestion and parking difficulties

3.2 Congestion and parking difficulties

Congested roads and slower journey times have become a much greater concern for drivers, the 2016 Report on Motoring has found. More than a quarter of motorists (27%) say that congestion is one of their top four concerns this year, a huge increase on the 18% recorded in 2015. Congestion is a number-one concern for 7% of drivers, against 5% 12 months ago.

The research found that this concern is highest in the South East of England: here, 36% say congestion is a top-four concern, with 9% ranking it at number one.

This issue has fed through into journey times, with 71% saying that the time taken to complete local trips is becoming less predictable (up from 67% in 2015), and 70% saying the same of journeys on major roads (also 67% in 2015).

The biggest contributory factor to greater concern over congestion appears to be higher traffic volumes. According to Department for Transport estimates for 2015, there was an overall 1.6% increase on 2014 to 317bn vehicle miles21.

At the same time, average traffic speeds were down, resulting in a typical rise in delays of 5.5% on the previous year. The DfT cited the fact that GDP rose in 2015 while fuel prices fell as the main reasons for growth in traffic levels.

Just under three-quarters of motorists (73%) believe that local and national government should take ‘much tougher’ steps to reduce congestion (72% in 2015). It is not clear exactly what these steps should be, although it is worth noting that there has been a slight increase (from 31% to 33%) in the percentage of drivers who would be willing to pay per mile for road use provided this was offset by a reduction in other motoring taxes.

Overall vehicle miles in England and Wales


317,000,000,000 miles

Looking at what motorists want to see in terms of transport investment, I would say that the things drivers are pushing for are those that the Government isn’t actually prioritising.
The expenditure is going on motorways and trunk roads, it’s not going on local roads. I think the Government finds it difficult to treat everyday transport, such as local roads or buses, as a priority – they tend to like big projects.

- Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, The Campaign for Better Transport

Given the rising concern about congestion, it is not surprising that problems associated with parking are also on the up. There has been a sharp increase in concern about the availability of parking this year: 14% of motorists say this is a top-four concern as opposed to just 8% in 2015. Parking charges are also a bigger issue, with 18% saying this is a top-four concern compared with 12% a year ago.

Motorists’ claimed level of vehicle use has changed relatively little in the last 12 months, with a quarter (25%) saying they use their cars a little or a lot less this year. Only 22% say they use their vehicles more.

The most common reason for declining vehicle use was given as increased difficulty in parking: a quarter (24%) of those who use their cars less cited this factor compared to only 14% who cited the same reason 12 months ago. Other reasons cited this year include a loss of income (21%) and the fact that they now work from home (16%).

Views on public transport have changed little over the past 12 months: in 2016, 54% say they would drive less if public transport were better (56% last year), with the biggest obstacles identified as high fares, lack of proximity, and the fact that services do not run frequently enough.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of drivers (66%) agree that a greater proportion of motoring taxes should be invested back into public transport – this represents a small increase on 2015 (64%).

There has been a rise in the proportion of motorists who say they want to see more of their taxes invested back into public transport. But their view might actually be, ‘We want the state of public transport to be improved so everyone else can use it and we can have the roads to ourselves’.

- David Leibling, Transport and Motoring Consultant

14% of people are more concerned about the availability of parking

66% of drivers agree that a greater proportion of motoring taxes should be invested back into public transport