Road traffic declines for first time in 70 years

Published: 06/10/2011

The number of cars on UK roads has fallen by 0.7 per cent, marking the first decline since the Second World War.

The research, conducted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), cited the recession, the Government’s used car scrappage scheme and stricter laws against unroadworthy vehicles as the primary reasons for the dip.

Paul Everitt, Chief Executive of the SMMT, said:

“The recession is the most obvious factor impacting on the number of cars on the road.

“The Scrappage Incentive Scheme has also removed a large number of older and more polluting vehicles. Alongside these economic factors, touch enforcement has helped remove unlicensed vehicles from UK roads.”

According to the UK registration data, there were 31,035,791 cars on the roads at the end of 2010 and some experts are predicting, as petrol prices near record highs and road tax rising by more than double the rate of inflation, further declines are likely.

However, not all industry boffins believe road traffic will continue to decrease. Stephen Glaister is the Director of the RAC Foundation and he is surprised by these forecasts:

“This [the decreasing number of cars] is likely to be a blip rather than the start of a trend. The population is forecast to rocket by ten million in the next couple of decades and these people will need to get about.

“We know people are driving less on an individual basis, and lifestyle changes might mean more people working from home in the future, but with nine out of ten passenger journeys already being made on the roads population growth – and economic recovery – will almost inevitably mean more cars.”

¹The Telegraph (Sep 2011)

Content correct at time of publication

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