More proof needed here

The average driver will spend 32 hours a year in traffic jams, a report has found as online shopping is blamed for the rise in congestion.

The UK was found to be the third worst country in Europe for traffic congestion, with the direct and direct costs of hold-ups reaching £31 billion last year, an average of £968 per driver.

Online shopping has contributed to the rising levels, according to analysts, with figures showing the number of delivery vans on the roads has increased in the last five years.

A rise in the number of delivery vans, yes. But presumably a fall in the number of trips by car to the shops.

And yes, one stop by a van will only drop off one thing, while one trip to the shops will buy many things – normally. But then one delivery round by a van will, presumably, deliver many more things that a trip to the shops.

I don’t know the actual outcome here. But it’s more complex than more vans thus more congestion.

34 comments on “More proof needed here

  1. People who no longer shop spend the time saved doing other things instead, many of which still involve driving. That’s one way to account for the numbers.

    My guess though is that it’s just population growth pushing up overall levels of traffic. With a stable population, car traffic would have fallen for all the reasons you gave; offset slightly by rising van traffic. But with a rising population, it gives the appearance that car traffic remains constant while van traffic is up.

  2. The Telegraph article mentions two sources, without giving links. Here’s the Imrix report which mostly contains statements of the obvious like “London has the worst traffic in Britain”. Hardly newsworthy, which is why the Telegraph decided to link it with an unrelated report from the AA.

    Here’s the AA’s press release where they pin the blame squarely on delivery traffic. Van traffic is up by 17.2%, car traffic up by 3.7% since 2011.

    Curiously, there’s less local car traffic; more A-road car traffic. This suggests that instead of spending every Saturday down the shops, people order online and spend their newly-free time visiting friends & family further afield.

  3. Home delivery is attractive to non-drivers who previously walked or used public transport. This is basically everyone I know in London, so it’s all new journeys there.

    Then there are people who would do shopping on the way home from work so delivery is a new journey there too (I was one of those).

  4. When I was last in the UK a couple of years ago, I was astounded by the number of private cars driving on the roads during working hours.

    In CH the roads are practically empty of private cars during the same timeframes.

  5. Try roadworks mania as one cause .

    Sure the streets/roads have to be maintained. But I can recount several cases of half a dozen sets of roadworks at the same places within the space of two years. All conducted with the who-gives-a-shit attitude to traffic hold-ups.

    Most of these sites rarely have more than 2 or 3 blokes working in a desultory manner regardless of how long the traffic queues grow. Past time for a squad of forensic accountants to descend on the UKs roadbuilders. To check amongst other things how many sets of wages are being “paid” compared to the numbers actually on-site.

  6. A lot of those private cars will be doing business journeys, abacab. London has a lousy public transport sytem. The Tube network’s radial. Whilst getting to the centre’s not too bad, moving around London’s much harder. It’s either into the centre & out (expensive) or bus (slow). In the last 25 years I lived in London, I count the number of times I used public transport for work on the fingers of one hand.

  7. @Theo – that a remarkable number of people are not working, yet have enough spare folding stuff to be making car journeys?

    Although, BiS might have nailed it (or it could be a combination of the two) – use of private car for business travel since public transport is shocking unless you want to go to the centre of London. You’d think that the people who planned it had a London-centric view of the universe or something :p

  8. Delivery companies must all take school holidays off to be with the kids then, as traffic drops by an astonishing rate in my town during those weeks.

    Anecdotal evidence, but when you see traffic jams in towns, do you see lots of vans or lots of cars? I tend to see the latter. Perhaps they are all held up by a van double-parked and delivering a bar of chocolate to someone in Starbucks.

  9. Rob,

    “Anecdotal evidence, but when you see traffic jams in towns, do you see lots of vans or lots of cars? I tend to see the latter. Perhaps they are all held up by a van double-parked and delivering a bar of chocolate to someone in Starbucks.”

    Yup. This is basically propaganda. Take a number (like 17%) and apply it in blanket form. But the fact is that deliveries take place after 9. They don’t need to be there in the 7:30-9 window, and there’s plenty of hours in the day. So, what delivery driver wants to sit in traffic, when they don’t need to, when they can just wait until 1 minute past 9 and the roads will clear?

  10. I think that £31 billion is the notional lost productivity from all the people stuck in jams.
    What it doesn’t estimate is the greater loss in productivity if half of those people were to actually arrive on time.

  11. But the fact is that deliveries take place after 9

    Well, they actually all take place between 15:55 and 16:00, because they say it will arrive between 09:00 and 16:00, you stay in all day to make sure you are there to receive it and then it arrives right at the end of the day.

    Perhaps this survey took place around 4pm.

  12. I think my company lost more than that last year from their staff being bombarded with bullshit emails about how diverse the company was, and all the interesting things they are doing to become even more diverse, etc.

    Plus the cost of replacing keyboards because I’ve worn the ‘delete’ button out.

  13. Looks like the Telegraph wants to deflect blame from the real culprits, the Yummy Mummies delivering their future geniuses to school in armoured trucks, and so picks on uncouth working class delivery vans as the kulaks du jour.

  14. The biggest problem in the UK by far, compared to other countries, is everyone is crushed into the South East corner. The populations in Germany, France, etc. are much better spread out and the most dense areas fairly central.

  15. Isn’t 1 car in 7 looking for a parking space? Didn’t the congestion charge cut traffic? (If it didn’t, then its fundamental premise is a lie. But then we knew it was a moneymaking scam). All those cycling lanes? Traffic management layouts that screw us up? Pedestrianised areas?

    I think driving in London is such a mugs’ game that I won’t do it.

    London should revert to horse-drawn transport. Then the whole capital will be a steaming pile of horse-shit and not just the area round Parliament.

  16. Rob – as an online seller my sales drop during school holidays. Perhaps less van deliveries during school holidays?

    We get more deliveries before 11am than after, though if we are sending a parcel the local UPS van usually comes mid to late afternoon.

  17. Tim Newman,

    Our government is heavily centralised on London in a way that France and Germany are more about regional government. The more that things get decided in London, the more jobs will be in London. And not only those jobs, but then, lots of jobs supporting those jobs. Someone working on some bollocks job at the DCMS needs a home, which means they need a plumber, supermarkets, bars, child minders etc etc. Move that bollocks job to Lincoln and at least a percentage of all that supporting labour follows them.

  18. BiS

    As a London resident for the last 40 years, I’d say that the public transport system is not bad; certainly a lot better than Paris or Rome. I’ve a car that stays parked outside the house from one week to the next, unused. It’s still there because the wife insists we have one. Used to cab it a lot, but now don’t bother, because the traffic is universally appalling. The cause? Cycle lanes, reducing capacity in Central London by c.35%. Which means the vast quantities of buses are useless too. The tube and overground, however, are much improved. The one thing that has really changed London travel, though, is the Citymapper app. Best app there is.

  19. “The average driver will spend 32 hours a year in traffic jams”

    What’s a traffic jam?

  20. ‘The UK was found to be the third worst country in Europe for traffic congestion’

    So quit whining and build more lanes.

  21. 1) There are now more road delivery services competing: once there was Royal Mail or Royal Mail – the good old days.

    2) Speed of delivery is being used as a competitive edge by on-line services. Once over goods would go next scheduled delivery space in the van permitting, or just wait – so days, a week, longer to get anything.

    3) Increase in consumption.

    Would any of this explain it?

  22. I’m sure it has nothing to do with so many towns taking what used to be two-lane roads, and banning cars from one of those lanes so a bus could use them now and again.

    Nothing at all.

    I mean, how could halving the capacity of the road cause congestion? Just makes no sense.

  23. The average driver will spend 32 hours a year in traffic jams,

    The average person in the UK has slightly less than one testicle, and slightly more than one ovary.

    “Average” is completely meaningless in such contexts as this.

  24. What’s a traffic jam? I think if you have tried to drive down the M3 to Southampton at any time of day or night in the last 10 years, while they have been doing the temporary roadworks, you would have a reasonable idea of a definition

  25. The most commonly observed cause of traffic jams is a middle-aged couple going out for a pub lunch, in a stately saloon car, travelling at a resolute 40 mph on the M1 or A1m. The backlash of HGVs struggling to overtake leads to all the people who drive at 55 in the middle lane clogging up the outside lane etc

  26. John B –
    Back in the 70s there were multiple couriers.
    Internet selling has built on the back of mail order business and company deliveries. And yes standards have improved – if I order something on a Saturday evening on Amazon I now expect to get it Sunday. And lo it arrives.

  27. Ahhh . . . temporary roadworks.

    As Johnny Carson explained traffic in LA: “The shortest distance between two points . . . is under construction.

  28. I used to commute to our warehouse just over 4 miles away. Get in about 10am, leave about 4.
    Going in was around 20 minutes, 15 on a good day. Going home was around 90 minutes a day.
    Even during school holidays it was an hour or more. Just no way to get from the far side of town by the ring road to this side of town then along to the village quicker. Effectively other routes took quite a bit longer.

  29. The traffic jam on the interstate at 8 AM is beyond comprehension. But I’m headed the opposite direction – to the golf course.

    Retirement works for me.

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