Speeds surged and delays plummeted on major roads when lockdown was introduced

Average speeds rose and delays plummeted on England’s roads when the coronavirus lockdown was introduced, according to new figures.

Department for Transport data shows that typical speeds on motorways and major A roads jumped from 59.9mph in April 2019 to 65.3mph 12 months later.

Average delays were more than halved over the same period, from 8.6 seconds per vehicle mile to 4.0 seconds.

This coincides with traffic levels dropping to below 40% of pre-pandemic levels.

AA spokesman Luke Bosdet said: “If there was one benefit from the coronavirus lockdown, the quieter roads and faster travel times helped supermarkets and other businesses supplying essential goods recover from the impact of panic-buying at the start of the lockdown.

“There were high-profile instances of extreme speeding on motorways but the police quickly publicised that they were still catching and prosecuting drivers who thought they could get away with it during the lockdown.

“Overall, traffic during lockdown told two stories: lorries and other goods vehicles still travelling along the strategic road network but, off it, traffic down as low as 20% of pre-lockdown levels.

“During the evenings, local roads were often almost deserted.

“This contrasts with last week’s official transport statistics that show lorry and van traffic back to, if not slightly above, pre-lockdown levels but car traffic still 10% below – even with the return to school.”