DRIVERS have known it for years, but finally it is official – Preston has been exposed as one of the most congested places in Britain.
New figures show commuters can spend an extra 127 hours a year – or five whole days – stuck behind the wheel trying to get to and from work.
Delays in 2015 were around four per cent worse nationally than the previous year, says a report by satnav company TomTom. Experts calculate congestion has worsened by 14 per cent across the UK in the past five years.
But even though Preston was one of the few major towns and cities to show a minute improvement year-on-year, it is still proving a massive headache for fed up road users.
The study ranks Lancashire’s administrative capital amongst the UK’s 25 most congested. It reckons normal journey times are now almost a fifth longer due to the queues than they would be if traffic was flowing freely.
And that figure of 19 per cent rises considerably during the morning and evening rush hours, with even short trips taking up to half as much again.
Notorious blackspots for motorists trying to enter or leave the city centre include the A59 through Penwortham, A6 Garstang Road, A6 London Road, A59 Brockholes Brow/New Hall Lane and A5085 Blackpool Road. Throw in the almost daily hold-up on the passing M6 or M55 and the result can be total gridlock.
Coun John Fillis, LCC cabinet member for highways and transport said: “We’re pleased that according to this report congestion has reduced around Preston. This is against a backdrop of significant levels of congestion affecting many parts of Preston on a daily basis. Without the substantial investment being planned, the area’s prospects for considerable growth and economic development would be lost.
“The City Deal is bringing a major £434million pound investment in the area, including millions of pounds invested in the transport network. The aim is to reduce congestion, help people to get around easier, provide an economic boost to the area and build well-planned sustainable new communities.
“Construction has already started on the Broughton Bypass, sections of the A582 have been widened and other major road schemes are currently being planned including the Penwortham Bypass. The Preston Western Distributor will also include a new motorway junction on the M55.
“To encourage people to get out of their car to make journeys across the area, improvements are planned to key routes into the city centre to prioritise buses, cycling and walking.”
The new study has rated Belfast as the UK’s most congested place with an average increase in journey times of 40 per cent due to jams. London is second and Manchester third.
“Building new motorways and ring roads doesn’t eliminate congestion,” said Ralf-Peter Schaefer of TomTom Traffic. “More must be done to better manage existing road space and to spread demand.
“People simply aren’t doing enough to change their travel habits, such as working flexible hours, avoiding peak commuting times. If only five per cent of us changed our travel plans we could imnprove traffic congestion on our main roads by up to 30 per cent.”