April 22, 2004

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT News Release (TR-008 [043]) issued by the Government News Network on 22 April 2004

The Department for Transport has today published National Statistics of average traffic speeds on trunk roads in England in 2003.

Key results are:
Trunk road traffic speeds in 2003
* The average speed of traffic on trunk roads in England in 2003 was 49.5 mph in the morning peak, 54.6 mph in the intervening off-peak and 50.6 mph in the evening peak period.
* Average traffic speeds in 2003 were lowest in London and highest overall in the South West. Differences between the peak and off-peak traffic speeds were most marked in the South East (differences of 7-9 mph) and lowest in the South West (0.5-0.7 mph).
* In the morning peak period, traffic spent on average 15 per cent of the time travelling at less than 20 mph, compared to 10 per cent of the time in the off-peak. In all time periods, around half of the time was spent at speeds over 50 mph.

Changes over time
* Average traffic speeds in 2003 were 0.9 mph faster than in 2001 in the morning peak period and 1.6 mph faster in the off-peak. In the evening peak, average speeds were 0.5 mph slower.
* The largest increases in average off-peak and morning peak speeds were on motorways. In the evening peak, speeds fell on motorways but increased on dual carriageway A-roads and remained almost unchanged on single carriageway A-roads.
* Most regions reflected the overall trend of increasing morning peak and off-peak traffic speeds and decreases or smaller increases during the evening peak period. The biggest increases in speed were seen in the Eastern region and London and the South East in the morning peak and off-peak periods.
* Many of the roads surveyed in 2001 and 2003 were also surveyed in 1995 and 1998, so some basic comparisons can be made over all four surveys. Average traffic speeds decreased between 1995 and 1998 in all time periods and across all road classes but increased between 1998 and 2003. Although average speeds in the off-peak period in 2003 are closer to 1995 levels, average speeds in the peak periods are still lower than in 1995.

Source: The Department for Transport, London.

DSA Footnote: The figures bear witness to the very high traffic densities in England (i.e. the number of registered vehicles per mile of available road). The ‘national speed limits’ in Britain are 60mph for single carriageways (i.e. undivided highways) and 70mph for dual carriageways and motorways (i.e. divided highways) unless local signs state otherwise.