London's roads are most congested in Europe as average speeds fall to just 10mph

Traffic on the A13 in east London  (PA Archive)
Traffic on the A13 in east London (PA Archive)

London remains the most traffic-congested city in Europe and the third worst globally, according to an annual survey.

The Inrix global traffic scorecard for 2023 said speeds in central London had fallen 10 per cent in a year to an average of 10mph.

This meant that regular drivers lost 99 hours a year stuck in traffic – an estimated £3.8bn loss to the economy.

It is the third year in a row that London has been named the most congested city in Europe. It said the time lost due to road delays in London increased by two per cent on 2022.

Transport for London does not publish average speeds for car journeys but admits that average bus speeds have fallen to 9.3mph.

But TfL says that, contrary to the Inrix data, roads are less congested than 2019 and that it has chosen to invest in the “movement of people” on streets, not just those in cars.

Inrix, which analysed data from almost 950 cities in 37 countries, said that New York was the worst world city for congestion, followed by Mexico City.

The survey estimates the time lost to congestion and the severity of congestion.

London’s “most congested corridor” was the westbound A40 between the North Circular Road and Church Road/A312 junction in Greenford. A driver who used this road at 3pm daily would have lost 63 hours sitting in traffic.

Other notorious congestion hotspots were the westbound A4 between Warwick Road in West Kensington and Wellesley Road in Chiswick, and the M4 east Heathrow interchange.

TfL says the number of delivery vehicles and minicabs are primarily to blame for clogging up the roads, though many motorists blame schemes that have narrowed roads to create safe space for cyclists.

More than 242 miles of TfL cycleways have been built across the city. Levels of car traffic have been above pre-pandemic levels for several years, while bus passenger numbers are in long-term decline – primarily due to passengers getting stuck in traffic.

Inrix said that the top 10 worst-affected towns and cities in the UK all saw an increase in congestion and delays compared with 2022.

The average UK driver lost 61 hours due to traffic congestion last year, up seven per cent on 2022.

Bob Pishue, transportation analyst and author of the report, said: “We are seeing travel return to pre-covid levels. The UK and Europe have seen smaller increases in congestion this year than in other parts of the world which indicates that these countries have found their new travel norms. While London remains most impacted by congestion in the UK, its drop to third suggests that other large global cities have returned to pre-covid levels of activity. As an indication of strong economic activity, increased congestion can be a positive sign for cities.”

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “For a driver, every hour sat in congestion is another hour of wasted time and, for most people, wasted fuel. Congestion can also lead to poor air quality. It’s incumbent for cities to find ways to tackle it and not accept it as a given.”

Birmingham and Bristol were the second and third-worst cities in the UK, followed by Leeds and Wigan.

In the South-East, Chelmsford rose one place in the UK league table to seventh, while the Hertford-Harlow A414 corridor rose from 12th to ninth.

Carl Eddleston, TfL's director of network management and resilience, said: “We do not agree with the conclusions of this study.

“We are committed to making sure Londoners can move around the capital as safely, sustainably and efficiently as possible. We support the movement of everyone across London and our investment in walking, cycling and public transport is making it easier to choose sustainable ways of travelling, helping to cut congestion.

“We’ve also just completed the first stage in delivering a world-leading upgrade to London’s traffic signal system and will continue to work closely with boroughs to make London’s streets better for everyone.”