Covid-19 causes largest fall in traffic since records began

12.54 | 7 December 2020 |

New DfT figures have once again highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on traffic levels, with an 18.9% fall in the year ending September 2020 representing the largest on record.

The figures, published on 3 December, show 288.7 billion vehicle miles were travelled in the year ending September 2020 – compared to 355.9 billion in the previous 12 month period.

The fall was highest among car traffic – down 20.9% to 219.9 billion vehicle miles – while van and lorry traffic decreased by 11.4% and 10.0%, respectively.

The DfT says exploratory analysis, based on provisional road traffic statistics, suggests that without the impact of Covid-19 on travel, the total figure for the year ending September 2020 would have remained broadly stable at 357.0 billion vehicle miles.

Therefore, the provisionally estimated impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is to have decreased road traffic by 68.2 billion vehicle miles, or 19.2% of rolling annual traffic levels.

Reacting to the statistics, the RAC says the “million pound question” is what happens next?

Rod Dennis, RAC data insight spokesman, said: “After two decades of increasing vehicle traffic, the drop in traffic volumes we’ve seen this year is nothing if not dramatic. 

“The million pound question now is what happens next? 

“Will 2021 see a return to historically high levels of vehicles on the roads, or will a longer-lasting effect of the pandemic – and the economic fall-out from it – be lower numbers for the foreseeable future?”



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