Price of fuel cuts road jams but Scots still love their cars

DRIVERS and bus passengers in Scotland are enjoying the least congested roads for six years, official figures show.

Motoring groups said the recession and high fuel prices had eased bottlenecks by cutting the number of trips being made.

A total of 11 per cent of drivers said they had experienced delays caused by traffic congestion last year, 2 per cent fewer than in 2008 and 3 per cent fewer than the previous year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Those travelling by bus also benefited, according to the latest Scottish Household Survey, which covered 10,000 homes.

Fewer than one in ten passengers said they had been affected by road congestion compared to one in seven in 2008.

The finding came as part of survey results which provide a snapshot of Scotland's travel habits last year.

People travelled less overall, but remained largely wedded to their cars despite Scottish Government attempts to encourage greener alternatives, with more driving alone than at the time of devolution in 1999.

The proportion of those interviewed who had travelled the previous day, regardless of distance, fell by 4 per cent in two years. That meant nearly one in four had effectively not left the house. The trend was most pronounced among older people, with half of those 80 and over staying in, along with a third of those aged at least 70.

Shopping was nearly as popular as commuting as the main reason for travelling last year - both about 23 per cent - with one in ten visiting family or friends and 8 per cent heading out for sport or entertainment.

Among other purposes, going for a walk declined in popularity from 3.6 per cent to 2.9 per cent since the category was introduced in 2007.

There was a slight increase in journeys being made in the morning last year, to 36 per cent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There were also slightly fewer trips made after 6:30pm, which were down to 16 per cent of the total.

Wednesday overtook Friday as the busiest travel day of the week, with Sunday becoming almost as busy as Saturday. Monday was the quietest weekday.

Average car occupancy has fallen from 1.69 people per vehicle in 1999 to 1.6 last year, although it was 1.57 in 2007.

Motoring groups warned that economic recovery threatened to increase congestion again, but said impending road improvements would help.

Automobile Association president Edmund King said: "The drop in congestion in 2009 is an indication that high fuel prices and the general economic situation meant a significant number of drivers cut back on their journeys by car. AA/Populus research in Scotland backs up this trend.

"Traffic has been increasing on Sundays for some time so it is no real surprise that more journeys were undertaken on a Sunday than in 2008.The fall in journeys on a Friday probably reflects the general economic situation and an increase in the number of people able to work from home."

Neil Greig, policy and research director for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "The fall in congestion is almost certainly due to the overall fall in the number of journeys, which means congestion may rise again when the economy recovers."

However, Mr Greig added that bottlenecks were likely to be further eased with the M74 extension in Glasgow and A80 upgrade to motorway between Glasgow and Stirling due to be finished next year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: "The good news is the Scottish Government will complete the motorway network in the near future, so some much needed relief may be coming."

Philip Gomm, spokesman for the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, said: "The fall in congestion is probably because of the downturn in the economy, which meant fewer vehicles on the roads and fewer journeys.

"But as the country recovers its economic health, the picture is bleak, not least because the population is also rising. UK wide, there are set to be ten million more inhabitants by 2033 and they will all want to travel."

The Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency said its key goals remained cutting car use. A spokeswoman said: "We are fully committed to reducing congestion on Scotland's roads and to tackling the major challenges of climate change and air pollution, whilst continuing to provide people with real alternatives to the car.

"That is why we are investing record levels in public transport and looking beyond the traditional and towards the innovative in our efforts to encourage people to make the switch to more sustainable modes of transport."