England's roads remain quietest since the summer holidays

England's roads remain quietest since the summer holidays

December 15, 2021

England’s roads the quietest they have been since the summer holidays as workers continue to shun the office after WFH guidance was reintroduced

  • Congestion level in London between 7am and 8am today is 41% – lowest on term-time Wednesday since July
  • Figures represent proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flowing conditions
  • Congestion for the same period in London on a Wednesday has been 49% to 54% for last six weeks in a row 
  • Low traffic levels also replicated in other cities in England today, particularly in Manchester and Liverpool 

London’s roads remained the quietest they have been in term-time for five months during the morning rush hour today as Britons continued to work from home amid fears over the Omicron variant.

The congestion level reported by TomTom in the capital between 7am and 8am today was 41 per cent – the lowest for that period on a Wednesday since before the summer holidays, when half-term is excluded.

The figures represent the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flowing conditions. A 41 per cent level therefore means a 30-minute trip will take 12 minutes more than with no traffic.

In comparison, congestion for the same period in London on a Wednesday has been between 49 and 54 per cent for the last six weeks in a row – and the low traffic levels were also replicated in other cities in England today.

In half-term the London level fell to 33 per cent, while in the summer holidays it floated between 24 and 33 per cent. The last time it was lower than 41 per cent outside of term-time on a Tuesday was July 21, at 33 per cent.

As for other UK cities, the congestion level from 7am to 8am today was 31 per cent in both Birmingham and Manchester, 29 per cent in Leeds, 28 per cent in Sheffield, 25 per cent in Newcastle and 24 per cent in Liverpool.

All of these figures were well below the same time period on Wednesday last week – with the biggest drop being in Manchester which was down 21 percentage points, followed by Liverpool falling 13 percentage points.

It comes after Transport for London revealed yesterday that the number of morning rush-hour commuters using the Underground had plunged by more than a quarter in just a week as Britons shun going into the office. 

A very quiet Westminster Bridge this morning with London’s roads remaining very quiet as more people work from home

People cross the road on the south side of Westminster Bridge during rush hour this morning as London remains quiet

The congestion level reported by TomTom in the capital between 7am and 8am today (far right) was 41 per cent

Rush hour traffic is much quieter than normal on this main road into Birmingham photographed this morning

Cars are driven along a main road into Birmingham this morning as congestion levels remain low across England today

Around one million passengers entered or exited the Tube up to 10am yesterday morning, which was down 26 per cent on the same period on Tuesday last week and less than half (45 per cent) of normal pre-pandemic levels.

Transport for London reported that bus usage across the capital also fell yesterday morning to 1.16million Oyster or contactless card taps, which was down 8 per cent on last week but still at 70 per cent of pre-Covid numbers.

The difference between Tubes and buses is partially because the latter are more regularly used by children going to school as normal and lower-paid Londoners in key worker roles that require them to travel in to their workplace.

While the total number of people on the TfL network yesterday morning was roughly equal to Monday, it was a bigger fall because Mondays have been generally quieter in recent months as more people work from home then.

On Monday, TfL, which runs the capital’s buses and Tubes, recorded an 18 per cent reduction in Tube journeys up to 10am, while bus usage dropped 6 per cent. However, across all of Monday, the week-on-week fall was only 12 per cent on Tubes and 2 per cent on buses, mostly because leisure travel has not fallen as much as commuting.

How morning rush-hour congestion in London today was the lowest it has been in term-time since July  

London congestion levels on Wednesday morning rush-hours since July is shown. The data from TomTom is for the 7am-8am slot. It shows the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flowing conditions:

Wed 16 Dec – 41%

Wed 8 Dec – 52%

Wed 1 Dec – 54%

Wed 24 Nov – 50%

Wed 17 Nov – 53%

Wed 10 Nov – 53%

Wed 3 Nov – 49%

Wed 27 Oct – 33% (half-term)

Wed 20 Oct – 51%

Wed 13 Oct – 50%

Wed 6 Oct – 48%

Wed 29 Sep – 54%

Wed 22 Sep – 58%

Wed 15 Sep – 53%

Wed 8 Sep – 47%

Wed 1 Sep – 33% (summer holidays) 

Wed 25 Aug – 28% (summer holidays)

Wed 18 Aug – 24% (summer holidays)

Wed 11 Aug – 24% (summer holidays)

Wed 4 Aug – 24% (summer holidays)

Wed 28 Jul – 27% (summer holidays)

Wed 21 Jul – 33%

Wed 14 Jul – 40%

Wed 7 Jul – 38%

A very quiet London Euston train station yesterday as people continue to follow Government advice to work from home

A quiet Piccadilly line train carriage on the London Underground yesterday during the morning rush hour

People pass through London Waterloo station during the morning rush-hour yesterday amid the work from home guidance

Transport bosses in the capital added that the biggest reductions came from stations in the City of London where there were around 318,400 entry and exits on Monday compared to around 415,300 last week.

In terms of Tube stations linked specifically to shopping locations, TfL saw nearly 541,000 entry and exits on Monday, compared to around 581,000 entry and exits during the same period last week.

During a press conference last Wednesday, Boris Johnson urged people in England to work from home where possible from yesterday, which brought the country in line with the rest of the UK.

It comes as the NHS is ramping up its mammoth booster effort even further as all adults across England are offered a third jab in the race against the spread of the Omicron variant.

The country’s top medic has urged people to ‘please, get boosted now’ in a sombre television advert, as the rollout extends to everyone aged 18 and above.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up to photographers today as he is driven in a car for his morning run in London




New restrictions were approved in Parliament last night, including the requirement to wear face coverings at more indoor spaces in England, and the introduction of NHS Covid passes for access to nightclubs and large venues.

With almost 100 Conservative MPs voting against the mandatory passes measure, Mr Johnson suffered the largest rebellion of his premiership in the Commons.

But the majority backing for the new rules was welcomed by NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson, who said they ‘should help slow the spread of the virus and help ease pressure on the NHS as we head into what is set is to be our most difficult ever winter’.

Earlier, the Prime Minister had thanked NHS workers for their ‘incredible efforts’ and called for their help in delivering the ‘biggest, fastest vaccination drive this country has ever seen’.

The NHS national booking system opened up to all over 18s today, and while people are eligible for a booster three months after their second vaccine they can book after two months.

Downing Street did not reject a suggestion that new Omicron cases could hit a million per day next week based on a ‘valid’ estimate from the UK Health Security Agency that daily infections are currently around 200,000.

In Scotland, people have been urged to limit their mixing by socialising with only up to two other households indoors either side of Christmas.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, politicians also backed mandatory Covid certification regulations for patrons wishing to access nightclubs, pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises.

In Wales, the public was told to prepare for more restrictions in the coming weeks, but the nation’s health minister insisted politicians do not want to ‘cancel Christmas’.

From 4am today, hotel quarantine for travellers arriving in England has been abandoned, with all 11 countries on the red list removed because the spread of Omicron in the UK was deemed to mean the measure to prevent cases being imported was less effective.

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