April 22, 2004

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT News Release (TR-008 [043]) issued by the Government News Network on April 22, 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 traffic speed 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 15 percent of the time traveling at less than 20 mph, compared to 10 percent of the time in the off-peak. However, around half of the time was spent at speeds over 50 mph in all periods.

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. However, in the evening peak, average rates were 0.5 mph slower.
* The most significant increases in average off-peak and morning-peak speeds were on motorways. In the evening peak, rates fell on motorways but increased on dual carriageway A-roads and remained almost unchanged on single carriageway A-roads.
* Most regions reflected the trend of increasing morning peak and off-peak traffic speeds and decreases or smaller increases during the evening peak period. The most significant rate increases were seen in the Eastern region, London, and the South East in the morning peak and off-peak periods.
* Many roads surveyed in 2001 and 2003 were also observed 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 periods and across all road classes but increased between 1998 and 2003. Although average rates in the off-peak period in 2003 are closer to 1995 levels, average rates in the peak periods are still lower than in 1995.

Source: The Department for Transport, London.

DSA Footnote: The figures witness the high traffic densities in England (i.e., the number of registered vehicles per mile of the public road). Britain’s ‘national speed limits’ 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.