Will nerves about public transport move more people onto the UK’s roads?

Reports from car marketplaces suggest that car sales have been rising as people turn to driving rather than take public transport during the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst road traffic may be generally down on this time last year, vehicle and traffic surveys show that many people would prefer to drive in their own vehicle, thereby putting additional vehicles on the road.

For example, in June 2020, Auto Trader, one of the UK’s largest car marketplaces said that traffic on its digital platforms was up by 29%, with 64 million visits, and Motorway.co.uk said that sales had risen to around £1.6m per day after putting socially-distanced collection services in place in May.

Whilst the government has previously encouraged people to return to public transport, to help move people back to working from offices rather than from home, it’s become clear that many people are still nervous about taking this form of transport. There has been a particular increase in sales of smaller cars with a value of around £5000, suggesting that people with lower budgets who might usually take public transport are intending to rely on driving instead.

Implications for road use

It’s sensible to assume that this preference for car use may extend well into a period where people are back at work in city centres and business parks further down the line. This then has an impact on congestion and parking – both of which were already pinch points before the pandemic arrived.

So this may be a good time for businesses, commercial landlords and local authorities to think about how they might manage increased traffic flows in the future. Part of this work may be in looking at the most recent traffic data pre-pandemic, and extrapolating demand given a certain growth in car ownership. This might result in businesses managing traffic and parking by putting employees on a office-day rota, combining office days with home working days to reduce congestion.

Survey data support from RDS

Any business, commercial landlord or local authority needing support or data to help with planning can talk to the experts at Road Data Services. We can carry out a range of in-person and ANPR surveys to provide up-to-date data that helps aid decision making. For more information, please contact us today.

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