The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling on the Government to develop a ‘congestion strategy’, after a new report revealed the extent of the UK’s congestion ‘crisis’.
Published on Saturday (19 August), the LGA report shows that speeds on local roads across the country continue to decrease, with the average speed on ‘A’ roads now just 25.2mph – a year-on-year fall of 1%.
The report also suggests that the average motorist wastes £968, and spends 4.9 days, stuck in traffic on major roads each year because of congestion.
It highlights how congestion ‘significantly contributes to excess harmful vehicle emissions’ – which leads to 40,000 premature deaths annually.
With traffic levels forecast to rise by up to 55% by 2040, the LGA is calling on the Government to prepare a comprehensive congestion strategy to tackle the issue.
As part of the strategy, the LGA says that councils need the same long-term funding certainty for local roads maintenance that is enjoyed by Highways England and Network Rail – adding this is ‘desperately needed’ to help councils tackle the £12bn local roads repair backlog.
The LGA also says that bus travel needs to be actively encouraged, while councils outside of London need powers enforce moving traffic offences so they can target congested junctions or stretches of road where safety concerns have been raised.
The LGA is warning that congestion is no longer just an environmental threat, but also a drain on the economy; it is forecasting that congestion will cost the economy £300bn a year by 2030 – a tenfold increase over the current annual cost of £30.8bn.
Cllr Judith Blake, LGA transport spokesperson, said: “Congestion can have a significant impact on our towns, cities and communities, and act as a drag on local growth. Worse still, it can lead to toxic air and reduced quality of life.
“When the average motorist is spending a working week every year sat in traffic on major roads, and losing almost a £1,000 in the process, it’s clear that councils need to be able to do more to tackle this growing problem.
“Councils are working hard to combat traffic and congestion. But they need long-term consistent funding to invest in local roads and greater powers to solve the problem and introduce attractive alternatives to car journeys such as public transport, walking and cycling.
“This will help those that need to use the roads as well as those that have to live with the consequences of congestion.”