COVID-19: More traffic on some UK roads than before the pandemic

·2-min read

There are more cars on the road this summer than at any time during the pandemic, travel data has shown.

In fact, traffic on some major routes has risen above pre-pandemic levels, according to data from navigation technology company TomTom.

Since COVID-19-related restrictions in the UK were relaxed, people have become more mobile leading to an increase in car use.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows as many as 9.4m trips were made abroad in August 2019.

The current rules on international travel mean there are likely to be millions more people in the UK than usual this summer, with many choosing to holiday at home.

Satellite images produced by Planet Labs for Sky News show empty car parks at London Gatwick airport this summer compared to a much busier ones in 2019.

But it's not holidays alone that have contributed to the rise in the number of cars on the roads.

Experts suggest the pandemic's impact on our lifestyles is also a factor.

"Three national lockdowns upturned UK mobility habits," said Ru Roberts, country manager for the Google-owned mobile navigation app Waze.

"We are more dependent on our cars than ever, trips made for leisure, travel and errands are exceeding pre-COVID levels by nearly 130%, and there's been a 20% increase on pre-lockdown traffic levels."

While the number of cars on roads has mostly recovered, bus and rail use across Britain remains around half its pre-pandemic level, according to government data.

Nearly two in five people in the UK are still reluctant to use public transport, according to a survey reported by trade journal Railway Technology.

This is despite the rail infrastructure operator Network Rail finding no traces of COVID in air samples in major stations across the country earlier this month.

Should confidence in public transport increase, it might offset the rise in car use.

Similarly, if international travel becomes easier, then next summer fewer people are likely to be in the UK and on the roads.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News.

We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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