London congestion 'to get worse before it gets better'

London traffic jam
Image caption Traffic jams in central London have been getting worse

It's not been an easy few months for those who drive in central London.

Congestion seems to have increased through a combination of routine roadworks, public space alterations and the cycling superhighway works.

The traffic experts INRIX have measured the speeds at a couple of sites, and they confirm what everyone who uses the roads in London already knew.

At Elephant & Castle last year in morning rush hour the average speed was 14.9mph. Today, the average speed is 11.4mph.

It's even lower during the evening peak.

Elephant & Castle

AM 2014: 14.9mph

AM 2015: 11.4mph = down 23%

PM 2014: 12.6mph

PM 2015: 9.1mph = down 27%

On Embankment, where the flagship East-West cycle superhighway is partially open but still under construction, it's a similar picture with speeds down by 30%:


AM 2014: 21.4mph

AM 2015: 14.8mph = down 30%

PM 2014: 17.5mph

PM 2015: 9.1mph = down 48%

(Data is based on the morning and early-evening peaks from a Thursday to a Wednesday, including the first half of a half-term week 22-28-October 2014 vs 21-27-October 2015).

Greg Hallsworth, a traffic data analyst at INRIX says: "With average speeds dropping by nearly half in the Embankment area and drivers' speeds decreasing by a quarter around the Elephant & Castle renovations, in both morning and evening rush hours, it is clear that the roadworks around the capital are slowing drivers down.

"Whilst in the short term this is frustrating for drivers who have to experience longer commutes to work, these roadworks are a step towards creating a more sustainable modernised road network in the capital. It's important we take into consideration the long-term benefits such improvements will have on London's congestion problem."

Image caption Construction of new cycle superhighways is causing traffic jams

Of course, roadworks aren't the only cause of congestion. The Mayor has blamed it on a big rise in the number of private hire vehicles. London's growing population and a recovering economy create more construction and delivery traffic.

There is some good news, as we're told the works on the cycle superhighways should start to ease in the new year.

The bad news is congestion is going to get worse in the run-up to Christmas.

'Will get better'

This is what the Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan told me on Monday when I asked him what he'd say to those affected by his cycle works:

"I apologise to them. But I say to them most of them [the works] are temporary. We're almost at the worst now. It'll start getting better in a few weeks' time. Probably just before Christmas is the worst point and it will then start getting better.

"There will be some permanent loss of road capacity but not very much and we've changed the schemes considerably to make them less capacity-taking. But in the end the vast majority of journeys in central London aren't made by car."

And many will, of course, welcome safer cycling routes and say the short-term pain is worth it.

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