ES News email

Road congestion is now higher in outer London than before lockdown, according to new car monitoring data.

The Waze for Cities app found that congestion in areas outside the central charging zone was up by nearly 20 per cent in August compared to the same period last year.

Monday, September 7 was the worst day for congestion, at 153 per cent compared to the same day in 2019, according to data seen by the Guardian.

Waze for Cities, a travel app, used GPS data submitted by around a million users to calculate how congested London’s streets were.

File photo of London traffic (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

In the app’s definition, a congested street is when road traffic is moving at 80 per cent or less of the speed it does when cars are free flowing.

The new data may be a reflection of the higher congestion charge in central London, which was reinstated in May after being suspended in March, and increased to £15 from £11.50 per day in June.

This could have encouraged drivers to take routes outside of the city centre, driving up traffic in outer areas of London.

It comes as a contrast to the early stages of coronavirus lockdown when many streets were deserted, with Brits ordered to stay at home in most circumstances.

The data does not measure actual volume of cars, nor does it differentiate between different kinds of vehicle on the road.

Campaigners argued that the figures showed authorities should press ahead with schemes to reduce traffic in residential areas.

Stephen Edwards, Director of Policy and Communications, Living Streets, said: “This concerning data should serve as a warning that the opportunity to embed the health and environmental benefits of fewer vehicles is not lost.

“Better streets for walking and cycling are better for us all. We must move ahead with schemes to promote these behaviours.”

Idling cars in congested traffic can have a major impact on air pollution, which studies have suggested could contribute to people having worse coronavirus symptoms.

Air pollution over London (PA)

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Toxic air contributes to thousands of premature deaths in London every year and there is now evidence linking air pollution with an increased vulnerability to Covid-19.

“London’s recovery from this pandemic must be a green, fair and healthy one, and it’s clear that Londoners agree. Our challenge is to eradicate air pollution permanently and ensure the gains we’ve made through policies such as Ulez [Ultra-low emission zone] continue.

“That is why the mayor will be extending the Ulez next year beyond central London and out to the north and south circular road.”