AA boss says coronavirus will trigger PERMANENT reduction in travel

Covid-19 crisis ‘will change way we work, live and travel forever’: AA boss says coronavirus will trigger PERMANENT reduction in road and train use ‘because people can now work from home’

  • Edmund King predicts road, rail and bus use will permanently decline after crisis
  • King suggests government might be better investing more in broadband
  • Under current plans the chancellor plans to spend £27bn to curb congestion 
  • The Department for Traffic reported up-swell in traffic this week in some cities
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Traffic chiefs and experts are predicting a decline in traffic volume and train usage in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak with home working becoming a permanent reality for many employees.

AA President, Edmund King, has said demand for travel, on the road or by rail, will be reduced as the majority of companies have seen it is possible to work from home and employees become used to home working and its associated technology.     

Mr King has suggested the government might be better putting more money into broadband instead of bolstering infrastructure funds.

His comments come as Department for Traffic figures showed there had been a sharp up-swell in traffic on the roads since the start of the week, despite rules telling the public to remain at home as much as possible. 

Photographs showed heavy traffic on a main road in Wapping, East London, on Wednesday heading into the capital during rush hour despite the UK being in lockdown

About 20 per cent of London’s roads were congested on average between Monday to Friday last week, compared to a normal figure of 40 per cent, according to analysis of TomTom data

He told BBC News: ‘… what this current crisis has shown is that the majority of companies can continue working from home, and it can be more efficient.’ 

Mr King added that moving forward commuters and companies would no longer see travelling up and down a motorway as efficient but as expensive and not good for the environment.  

Currently the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, plans to spend £27bn to curb congestion on roads and £100bn on HS2 – but if demand falls as predicted, the spending plan could be fundamentally changed. 

AA President, Edmund King, (pictured) has said demand for travel, on the road or by rail, will be reduced as the majority of companies have seen it is possible to work from home and employees become used to home working and its associated technology

At the daily coronavirus press conference on April 1, Yvonne Doyle, director of health protection for Public Health England, said: ‘(It’s a) slightly concerning trend, because we have seen an uptick in motor vehicle traffic

While Prof Greg Marsden from Leeds University’s Transport Studies Unit has also thrown his weight behind the notion that traffic will fall in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.  

According to Marsden’s research, the number of peak-hour commuter journeys was already declining before the crisis, as more people chose to work one or two days at home or started work later in the day. 

Professor Marsden told the BBC that instead of investing in expensive road expansion programmes, the government should ‘focus instead on rebuilding public transport and switching more of our vehicles to zero emissions.’        

New York has seen a similar reduction in congestion to about 5 per cent over the past week

Congestion levels in Madrid are also down by a similar figure to Paris, now at about 5 per cent

Congestion levels in Paris are down to about 5 per cent, from a normal average of 40 per cent

The predictions about the future of transport emerged just days after the Department for Traffic said there had been a sharp up-swell in traffic since the start of this week, despite rules telling the public to remain at home as much as possible.

It is unclear what is driving the spike, but there have been signs of heavy traffic remaining in some cities like London, despite pleas for people to stay at home.

At the daily coronavirus press conference on April 1, Yvonne Doyle, director of health protection for Public Health England, said: ‘(It’s a) slightly concerning trend, because we have seen an uptick in motor vehicle traffic.

‘The message here really is people do need to stay at home, and most are doing the right thing as you can see from the rapid decline in public transport use.   

The Road Safety Analysis group has found traffic on A roads in South East England fell by 56 per cent by the end of last week compared with a week earlier. But it also discovered that average speeds have gone up by at least 10 per cent over the past two week

London has higher traffic levels than other major European capitals – indicating that motorists are still making unnecessary journeys despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Drivers in the UK capital are not leaving the roads as quickly as their counterparts in other European capitals – and traffic levels are higher than in New York, figures show.

The analysis found that 20 per cent of London’s roads were congested on average between Monday to Friday last week, against the usual figure of 40 per cent.  

The number of vehicles on the roads in the capital and across Britain dropped sharply last month as people follow Government guidelines to stop non-essential journeys.

Boris Johnson has pleaded with motorists to stay at home unless it is ‘absolutely necessary’ for them to go out

The reduction was reflective of advice to work from home along with the closure of schools, pubs, restaurants, theatres, gyms and most shops over the past fortnight.

But traffic in London has not fallen as fast as in Paris, New York and Madrid where congestion was down from the usual 40 per cent to about 5 per cent last week.  

In early March, the Department for Transport revealed that motorists were suffering average delays of 10 seconds per mile on England’s motorways and major A roads in 2019.

This was up 1% on 2018, indicating that congestion on the strategic road network – managed by Government-owned company Highways England – was getting worse amid record traffic levels.

The data suggests driving along a 10-mile section of road with a 60mph limit typically took 11 minutes and 35 seconds last year, compared with 10 minutes in free-flow conditions.

The DfT figures show 67% of additional time was needed to complete journeys in 2019 due to hold-ups.

Delays on local A roads in 2019 typically lasted 44 seconds per mile, up 2% year-on-year.      

World-wide, similar predictions about a reduction in the use of different forms of transportation are being made by the Australian Road Research Board: 

‘The COVID-19 shutdown offers a critical opportunity for Victoria to understand and deal with its transport issues before life eventually returns to normal,’ ARRB chief executive Michael Caltabiano said.

‘We need to take this opportunity to re-imagine now what a post-COVID-19 back-to-work should look like.’

To avoid a scenario where Victorians will get back into their cars and spend hours on congested roads, Mr Caltabiano suggested implementing work from home on one or two days a week.

‘Can we re-imagine the work people do?’ he said.

‘There is also now an opportunity to better understand the choices people make.’          

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