Traffic jams on Britain’s major roads have cost the economy around £9 billion in the last year and left drivers facing delays of up to 15 hours.
Data from transport analyst Inrix has revealed that between September last year and August this year the country saw a total of 1.35 million jams – the equivalent of more than 3,700 every single day.
Looking at the cost of lost time, fuel and CO2 emissions the data experts put the cost of all these hold-ups at £9bn and said that fuel spills, emergency repairs and lorry breakdowns were to blame for the worst of the delays.
The worst jam in the last year, which occurred on the M5 in Somerset this August, lasted for 15 hours and at its peak stretched for 36 miles. It was caused when two lorries collided, causing a fuel spill and closing two lanes.
Other major hold-ups over the last 12 months included 15 hours of delays on the A406 after an accident, the M1 being closed for nine hours after a suspicious object was found near a flyover, emergency viaduct repairs causing eight hours of hold-ups on the M6 and a lorry fire and subsequent road repairs on the M6 near Preston leading to 10 hours of disruption.
Graham Cookson, chief economist at Inrix, said: “While queuing is considered a national pastime for many Brits, nothing is more frustrating than sitting in traffic and it’s a costly activity.
“Jams can be caused by all kinds of incidents but fuel spillages, emergency repairs and broken down lorries contributed to the biggest pile-ups this year.”
The RAC said the figures showed the “fragility” of the country’s road network and demonstrated the need for agencies to work harder to keep roads open.
RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said: “Congestion is a major cause of frustration for motorists and delays undoubtedly have a significant negative impact on the UK’s economy.
“We now have record numbers of vehicles and a road network that struggles to cope with the increased volume of traffic. This is very clearly demonstrated on a daily basis with congestion at key pinch-points around the country.
“Sadly, the fragility of the road network is exposed whenever there is a major incident on a motorway. The fall-out effect of motorists seeking alternative routes causes serious traffic jams in surrounding areas, often bringing gridlock to towns and cities as a result.
“While clearing the aftermath of a major motorway accident is understandably time-consuming more needs to be done by all the agencies involved to speed up reopening and to improve diversion routes.”
According to Inrix’s analysis, November 2016 was the worst month for jams, with almost 170,000 – 50 per cent more than the annual average.
Graham Cookson suggested that particularly poor weather might have played a part in the dramatic rise.
He commented: “There are so many factors that influence congestion levels, it’s hard to be certain why November was the worst month. We do know November 2016 was significantly colder than usual, in fact, the coldest month of the calendar year.
“The risk of ice on the road can lead to slower moving traffic and people are more inclined to take shelter in vehicles over cycling or walking in cold snaps.”