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Jams set to soar

New government figures predict that the delays on British roads are likely to double by 2040. The increase in waiting times seems unlikely to be reduced, even if the price of fuel continues to rise sharply and population increase is modest.

New government figures predict that the delays on British roads are likely to double by 2040. The increase in waiting times seems unlikely to be reduced, even if the price of fuel continues to rise sharply and population increase is modest. The figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) were released as the government announced a £28 billion package that will see major investment on Britain's main trunk roads. This money has been pledged to tackle 52 of the country's worst congestion black spots. This represents the largest investment in our road network since the 1970s but even with these improvements, the delays are set to increase.

The DfT are projecting that the number of cars on our roads will rise by 10 million from 28 to 38 million by 2040. They calculate that if the rise is steady, delays will increase by 114%. This is predicted to result in a fall in average road speeds of 8%. What this means for drivers is that 15% of us will be stuck in traffic jams at peak times. The DfT calculations are based on a 20% rise in population, with an increase in living standards and economic growth. This increase in congestion is predicted to be even worse if cars continue to be more fuel efficient and the real cost of motoring falls.

This is not out of the question as the DfT has also predicted that the cost of motoring in real terms will fall by 24% by 2040. The study says: "With constrained road space, road traffic growth means greater pressure on the network and therefore higher levels of congestion." Exactly how much traffic numbers will increase is dependent on a number of factors. These include the amount and pace of population increase, the degree of economic growth and the relative cost of motoring. Even the most conservative of estimates, however, still would result in a fall of 2% in road speed and 15% of us in jams during peak periods by 2040.

The DfT's prediction model is even more depressing at the other end of the spectrum. If the cost of oil decreases at the same time as we see these rises in population and economic growth, some 30% of us could be caught up in daily traffic jams at peak times. This news puts a question mark over government measures to increase the popularity of electric cars, with chunky £5,000 grants. These cars would still cause the traffic jams, so perhaps the investment would be better made elsewhere.
 

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