Revealed: Traffic congestion costing London economy billions per year

Heavy traffic in London

Data reveals traffic congestion costs London's economy more than £5billion a year - Credit: PA/ Dominic Lipinski

Road traffic costs London’s economy £5.1billion a year - or £1,211 per driver - the mayor's office says. 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan today (Tuesday, January 11) released data showing the cost of traffic congestion in the capital as car use remains high, with close to pre-pandemic levels recorded in the second half of last year.

It’s estimated that more than a third of car trips made in London could be walked in under 25 minutes and two-thirds could be cycled in less than 20.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan - Credit: PA

Mr Khan said: "If we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future we will replace one public health crisis with another – caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads. 

“The cost to both Londoners and the capital cannot be underestimated, with days wasted stuck in traffic, billions lost to the economy and increased road danger and health impacts.

“Most traffic is caused simply by there being too great a demand for limited street space, meaning the only long-term solution can be to significantly reduce car use in favour of greener means of travel."

Data shows public transport use is currently still significantly behind pre-pandemic levels, with buses at 70 per cent of normal demand and the Tube at 55 per cent.

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The number of trips by walking, cycling and public transport in 2020, as a proportion of all trips taken, is estimated at 58.3 per cent - five per cent lower than the year before.

Mr Khan's office said a 14 per cent drop in the share of trips made by public transport offset a nine per cent increase in those by walking or cycling in 2020.

In October last year, Mr Khan expanded the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to cover all areas within the north and south circular roads - an area 18 times larger than before.

Vehicles need to meet set emissions standards or pay a £12.50 daily charge when travelling inside the zone.

Last month, TfL confirmed permanent changes to the Congestion Charge (CC), which mean that from February 21, there will be no charges after 6pm and operating hours on weekends and bank holidays will be noon to 6pm. 

The cost for driving within the CC zone, which is in central London, will remain at £15, after being raised during the pandemic.

Camden Green Party councillor Sian Berry said she was worried by the council's tree-planting statist

Green London Assembly Member Sian Berry - Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

In response to today's data, London Assembly Member and Green Party councillor for Camden Sian Berry said transport policies in the capital aren't working.

She called for travel options that are "easier, safer and cheaper" than cars.

Ms Berry said: "We urgently need a genuinely integrated transport policy that creates safe space for active travel, better public transport services and sends the right signals with prices.

"Instead, our fares are rising and Londoners are being forced into cars, while bus, train and tube services are being cut, and not enough is being done to make space for safe walking and cycling.

"Despite many years of pressure from me and others on the London Assembly, the Mayor has failed to get to grips with the cost of congestion and develop a London-wide smart, fair road charging system."

Mr Khan's office says more than 120km of cycle routes and tens of thousands of square metres of extra pavement space have been delivered during the pandemic, helping people to walk and ride safely.

Its data shows cycling during the pandemic increased by 22 per cent in outer London and seven per cent in inner areas compared to spring 2019, with broader participation, particularly among people from minority ethnic communities.

September and October last year were both record months for the Santander cycle hire scheme, with more than one million hires for the first time in October.

TfL's director of city planning Alex Williams said: "A car led recovery (from the pandemic) will increase congestion and pollution, threatening London's economy and making the capital a less healthy and sustainable place for everyone.

"Following the successful expansion of the ULEZ scheme, which led to a reduction in trips by older and dirtier vehicles, we’re determined to make sure that clean and reliable public transport plays a central role in supporting Londoners and the wider economy."