The 10 UK cities with the most traffic and congestion

07 February 2020 3 min. read
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When people think of congested roads in British cities, most will think of London before any other locale. However, according to a new survey from navigation giant TomTom, Edinburgh is actually the nation’s capital of congestion.

As global populations continue to condense into the largest cities on the planet, congestion is ramping up on roads across the world. As well as costing millions of people and businesses huge amounts of time and money, this is also having a major environmental impact, due to the level of CO2 emitted by commuters trapped for hours in streams of crawling traffic.

Illustrating the worsening situation in the UK, the latest Traffic Index from navigation technology firm TomTom shows that congestion across the UK has got worse by 1% over the last year, with the average resident of Britain spending an extra six days in traffic over the year. Detailing the traffic situations in 416 cities from 57 countries, TomTom surprisingly found that London was not the worst offender, however.

Congestion worsened significantly in the capital, with Londoners spending six days and 5 hours in peak hour traffic in 2019 – an increase of two hours from 2018. However, London’s extensive public transport system and punitive congestion charge, enough commuters in the city have been convinced to leave their cars outside the capital for it to sit in second place on the list. Instead, the Scottish capital of Edinburgh holds the unwanted title of the UK’s most congested city, as it was for the past two years.

The UK’s most congested cities in terms of overall daily congestion level – extra travel time

According to TomTom, Edinburgh’s drivers expect to spend an average of 41% extra travel time stuck in traffic, with congestion worsening by 1% since 2018. This places the city as the 33rd most congested city on earth – despite hosting around 100,000 fewer residents than Glasgow. Indeed, Glaswegians saw the lowest levels of waiting time in the UK’s major cities at just 119 hours, in stark comparison to Edinburgh’s 172 hours. 

The ranking of the most congested cities in the UK according to overall daily congestion level and extra travel time found that overall the UK was home to 10 of the world’s top 100 most congested cities. Following close behind Edinburgh (33rd), London (45th), were Brighton and Hove (63rd), Bournemouth (69th), Hull (73rd), Belfast (76th), Southampton (79th), Bristol (83rd), Reading (89th) and Leicester (98th).

Stephanie Leonard, UK Traffic Advisor at TomTom, commented, “It’s clear the UK still has a long road to travel until congestion levels are brought under control. In time, the rise of autonomous vehicles and car-sharing services will help alleviate congestion across the country, but planners and policymakers can’t afford to sit and wait. They need to use all the tools available to them to analyse traffic levels and impacts, so they can make critical infrastructural decisions.”