Morning rush hour is back: traffic hits pre-lockdown levels

As many cars are taking to the road between 8am and 9am on weekdays now as they were back in January

The morning rush hour has made a full comeback after traffic levels dropped due to Covid-19, data reveals.

There has been a significant increase recently in the number of drivers taking to the road, particularly between 8am and 9am. Average weekday traffic between Monday 7 September and Wednesday 17 September was back to the same level as in January, with car volumes up 55 per cent compared with the period before most children had returned to school.

The figures - which come from RAC Insurance black box data - show the return of the rush hour has been primarily driven by parents doing the school run rather than people driving to work. The staggered drop-off times being operated by many schools, meanwhile, have contributed to the rush hour being extended.

In addition, car volumes during the school run rush - between 3pm and 4pm - and evening commute rush - between 5pm and 6pm - are at a similar level to one another. This was the case before the first coronavirus lockdown in March, which caused UK road traffic levels to fall to their lowest point since 1955.

The RAC’s breakdown patrols are also now being called out at normal levels again, with mid-week callout numbers only slightly below where they were before lockdown.

RAC Insurance spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “While schools reopening was always going to lead to a rise in vehicle traffic, the fact that between a fifth and a third of the UK workforce is still working remotely shows just what role the school drop-off plays in creating the phenomenon we know as the morning ‘rush hour’.

“In short, it appears dropping off children at schools and nurseries contributes far more to morning traffic in the 8am to 9am window than commuters heading to workplaces does, which is a surprising finding in itself.”

He added: “The million-dollar question, of course, is what happens next and whether morning road traffic continues to rise in the autumn, or whether it stays at the sort of level we’re seeing now. The rising number of coronavirus cases, together with the introduction of local lockdowns and the threat of new nationwide restrictions, may also have an impact on people’s willingness to return to public transport.

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