The UK's most congested cities: how does yours compare?

London congestionAFP/Getty Images

A new report has revealed Britain's most congested cities. It has also highlighted those where we are wasting more and more of our time in traffic jams.

So where are we most at risk of congestion, and why are we wasting our time and money like this?
Most congested
According to new figures released by TomTom, Oxford has seen the biggest increase in traffic congestion of anywhere in UK, pushing it from sixth to third place: nowadays almost a third of its main roads are clogged with traffic.

Belfast has seen the second biggest increase in congestion, followed by Bolton, Southampton and Sheffield.

However, the have failed to trouble those cities who are firmly at the top of the table in congestion terms. London takes the top spot, followed by Edinburgh. Ofter Oxford, Belfast and Bradford suffer the worst traffic problems.

The waste
This will come as little surprise to those of us slogging through these cities day after day. Road congestion is estimated to cost the UK economy £20 billion a year in lost production, but it cots us all much more than this.

If you face congestion, then there's a good chance you waste up to 30 minutes a day waiting around for the traffic, you arrive at work stressed, you resent being away from home in the evenings and missing out on family life, and gradually, day by day, you are being ground down by the daily commute. Those people who travel during the working day are even more burned out, because easily an hour of the day is spent staring at the car in front wondering where it all went so wrong.

Given the soaring cost of fuel, is isn't just our time we're wasting. As we run the engines in our increasingly stationery cars, we are literally burning our disposable income.

Do we have to do this?
So why are we wasting our time, ruining our quality of life and burning our money?

Most of us do it because we genuinely believe we have no choice. It's the lesser of the evils we are faced with. A congested commute is a necessity because of where we have to work, where we can afford to live, where we want to socialise, and the fact that the rest of the country is making precisely the same choices. If there were loads of jobs and entertainments in the middle of the countryside, that's where the cars would be.

There are of course alternatives. We could move to a less congested part of the country. Tom Tom identified Northampton, Warwick and Chesterfield, all with congestion rates of less than 10 per cent. It also found that congestion was falling in Bedford, Colchester, Newport, York and Chester.

We could travel at a less busy time of day, starting in the small hours and travelling back just after lunch - or starting late and finishing after tea. However, we would need to persuade the boss it was a good idea, which isn't always easy. Or we could think long and hard about every journey. Could we make a conference call instead? Could we work from home? Could we all meet somewhere less hectic?

We just have to look beyond the obvious, think abut the choices we are making, and weigh up whether we really need to be sitting in traffic after-all.

What do you think? Is there any real alternative? Let us know in the comments.

The Biggest increase in traffic congestion (September 2011 versus March 2011)
1 Oxford
2 Belfast
3 Bolton
4 Southampton
5 Sheffield
6 Edinburgh
7 London
8 Glasgow
9 Cambridge
10 Aberdeen

The UK's most congested cities
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The UK's most congested cities: how does yours compare?
BD 2,9,10
WC 1-2, 99
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