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Economic slowdown improves commute times

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September 8, 2008

Economic slowdown improves commute times

Economic slowdown improves commute times

September 9, 2008 As we learn to monitor and analyze what really happens out there, some complex and quite fascinating relationships are beginning to come to light. An example of this came when the latest Trafficmaster/RAC Foundation Journey Time Index was published in the U.K. It seems that high fuel prices, the credit crunch and the economic slowdown have resulted in decreasing traffic congestion, with jams down 12 per cent compared to 2007. It also found that the average speed on Britain's motorways has slowed from 63.3 mph to 62.2 mph as motorists aim to conserve fuel, and despite slowing speeds, journey times have improved by 0.3%. September 9, 2008 As we learn to monitor and analyse what really happens out there, some complex and quite fascinating relationships are beginning to come to light. An example of this came when the latest Trafficmaster/RAC Foundation Journey Time Index was published in the U.K. It seems that high fuel prices, the credit crunch and the economic slowdown have resulted in decreasing traffic congestion, with jams down 12 per cent compared to 2007. It also found that the average speed on Britain's motorways has slowed from 63.3 mph to 62.2 mph as motorists aim to conserve fuel, and despite slowing speeds, journey times have improved by 0.3%.

The data for the survey is actually a by-product resulting from Trafficmaster’s other services in the UK which include an intelligent satellite navigation system, which uses live traffic information and real-time road speeds to calculate optimum routes and avoid traffic congestion, stolen vehicle tracking, and the provision of live traffic information to other aftermarket and factory-fit satellite navigation systems. Trafficmaster maintains a unique traffic monitoring network of 7,500 sensors, covering 8,000 miles of UK motorways and trunk roads.

Georgina Read at Trafficmaster comments: "Our traffic monitoring network shows the start of a change in driving patterns and behavior over the past six to twelve months. Average motorway speeds have reduced as has congestion - this indicates a reduction in the volume of vehicles, especially HGV's, traveling on the roads. One obvious explanation for this is that rising fuel prices and general economic concerns are making people think carefully about how they drive. The upshot of less traffic is a drop in congestion levels, meaning motorists can get from A to B quicker while traveling at lower and more economical speeds. It really is a case where less haste can mean more speed."

Overall the route with the most dramatic decrease in congestion is the M25 Northern sector between junctions 21 and 31, with a 26% reduction in traffic jams over 12 month period from June 2007 to June 2008 compared to same period the year before.

This change in traffic trends is down to a general drop in the number of vehicles, particularly heavy goods vehicles, travelling at peak times. This could in part be due to the downturn in the retail and construction industries that predominately make up the commercial vehicle segment. The completion of a number of major road works also plays a major part in the dramatic decrease in congestion.

Sheila Rainger, Head of Campaigns at the RAC Foundation, concludes: "The fall in congestion is good news in an otherwise bleak picture for UK motorists and shows that motorists are moving journeys out of peak hours where possible. However, this altered pattern of demand can only be a breathing space for policymakers, and does not remove the case for investment in a package of congestion-busting measures, including action to tackle bottlenecks, and properly planned additional capacity on the UK's strategic network. Until these long-term improvements are in place, motorists can achieve a more reliable journey by planning ahead and making small adjustments to avoid the jams."

The Journey Time Index monitors 26 major routes across the UK over the last three years. It also looks at the rise and fall in congestion with reference to the worst traffic hotspots across the country. As a summer issue the Index also publishes data on the most congested holiday routes and identifies the events and festivals that have the biggest impact on the country's roads.

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