Motor traffic on Britain's roads falls for third year in a row

Motoring lobby slams cost of driving, but DfT still forecasting huge rise in the years ahead

by Simon_MacMichael   December 17, 2011  

Car wheel at speed copyright Simon MacMichael.jpg

New statistics published by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that the volume of motor vehicle traffic in Great Britain has fallen for the third year in a row – the first time that has happened since records began in 1949.

According to Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2011, total motor vehicle traffic on Britain’s roads in 2010 amounted to 308.1 billion miles, a 1.6 per cent decline on the previous year.

That followed falls of, respectively, 1.0 per cent from 2008-09 and 0.8 per cent from 2008-09; however, motor traffic volumes remain 6.2 per cent above levels recorded in 2000.

Most of the fall in motor traffic in 2010 was attributed to lower levels of car use, with a 2.1 per cent year-on-year reduction to 243.8 billion miles. HGV traffic, however, registered a slight increase, up 0.3 per cent on its 2009 level to reach a total of 16.4 billion miles.

One motorists’ campaign group, the Association of British Drivers, has accused the Coalition Government of continuing the so-called ‘War on the Motorist’ that former transport secretary Philip Hammond had promised to end after last year’s General Election, reports the Daily Mail.

The newspaper added that publication of the figures had been accompanied by calls to reduce the cost of motoring through initiatives such as cutting the level of fuel duty.

AA spokesman Luke Bosdet told the Daily Mail: “People are being priced off the roads, and it is those on low incomes and those in rural areas who are worst affected.

“There is a real danger that motoring is being wound back to the 1960s and 70s, when it was by and large the preserve of the middle classes,” he continued. “Ministers need to read the runes and take action.”

The DfT’s National Transport Model, however, suggests that the reduction in motor traffic seen over the past three years is only a temporary trend, with a predicted 43 per cent rise between 2003 and 2043.

By far the greatest increase is expected to be seen in light van traffic over that period, forecast to more than double with a 103 per cent rise over 2003 levels.

News of other statistics relating to lorries from Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2011 can be found here.

5 user comments

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While there is a decrease in the volume of traffic I have noticed that the 'boy' racers are more obvious namely because there are more of these drivers staying at home 'rent free' and able to afford cars and fuel and cruise about the roads with a total disregard for other road users!!

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1184 posts]
18th December 2011 - 18:47


PS just wondering when DPU will pop up in reaction to this article

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1184 posts]
18th December 2011 - 18:48


The Association of British Drivers and others bemoan the "war on the motorist" and accuse the government of pricing motoring out of the reach of ordinary working class folk. Other special interests such as the airlines make much the same complaint about air passenger duty.

Well, I think it is scandalous that ordinary middle class folk are priced out of the market for executive jets. Everyone should have the right to own and operate their own executive jet. It is high time the government ended the war against bizjets, by reversing the outrageous introduction last September of VAT on aircraft over 6,000kg not used for public transport purposes.

posted by Paul M [343 posts]
18th December 2011 - 21:40

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The ABD are certifiable fruitcakes. I'm surprised anyone actually takes any notice of what they say.

People are not "being priced off the roads", they're just going to have to cut their car use because fuel costs more than it used to. That's NOT the same thing as being without any transport.

Last month the RAC Foundation (another self-interest lobby group) said we were heading for gridlock. Either way I don't see much evidence of reduced traffic in the centre of Shrewsbury, it's still pretty chocker whenever I head in there.

It has been shown that road transport is in fact subsidised, rather than the reverse:

And from March 2011:

For a comparison why not ask some rail commuters how much train fares have increased by in the last 10 years compared to road fuel. When the weather was bad last Christmas I looked at getting the train from Shrewsbury to Bangor for us to visit my parents: £120 for 2 adults & 2 kids, with a railcard. If I hadn't been a fit, healthy cyclist I could have died of shock!! It's 85 miles up the A5, about £12 each way in the car. Meanwhile motorists get a scrappage scheme and £5,000 electric car grants.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2414 posts]
18th December 2011 - 22:14


Well some people would suggest that placing oneself in the path of heavy moving machinery unshielded is the act of a 'fruitcake'. Luckily those that do are only a tiny minority of the population though. Wink

posted by Driver Protest Union [20 posts]
23rd December 2011 - 19:45

1 Like