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Liverpool drivers waste 39 hours a year on road to nowhere

Larry Neild asks why as city makes UK's traffic jam top three

Written by . Published on June 25th 2012.

Liverpool drivers waste 39 hours a year on road to nowhere

LIVERPOOL'S peak-hour commuters spend the equivalent of an entire working week sitting in traffic jams.

The city has been named as one of Europe’s worst cities for rush-hour traffic congestion.

'City centre roads were suddenly realigned, narrowed, closed to through traffic or converted into bus lanes. No longer were motorists able to use a whole network of streets to reach their destinations'

So who’s to blame? Traffic planners, the notorious Big Dig or is it a sign of the improvement in Liverpool rising up the ladder as one of the UK’s top tourist and shopping destinations?

Figures from traffic information company INRIX show on average peak-hour motorists in Liverpool waste 39 hours a year stuck in traffic jams.

That makes the city the third most congested after top-placed London and runner-up Manchester.

The INRIX figures also showed that in the capital's commuter zone last year, drivers wasted 66 hours in traffic, with the Greater Manchester figure being 45 hours. 

Edge-Lane-ClearanceEdge Lane: Everything must go 

One way of avoiding the worse of Liverpool’s jams is to stay off the road between 4pm and 5pm on Wednesdays, according to INRIX, it's busiest time. 

There was a time, not so long ago, when traffic jams in Liverpool were virtually non-existent, with a city centre essentially closing down shortly after 6pm when the streets were deserted. You could drive from The Strand to the edges of south Liverpool without passing a single traffic-light junction.

Then, at the dawn of the 21st century, two things happened to change Liverpool for ever: The Big Dig - and its out-of-control, delinquent cousin, CCMS – City Centre “Movement” Strategy. 

Work also started on Liverpool ONE and the waterfront arena and convention centre, as well as an explosion in city centre apartments. The aim of CCMS was to encourage commuters to leave their cars at home, using instead buses, trains, cycles or, heaven forbid, walk. As if. 

City centre roads were suddenly realigned, narrowed, closed to through traffic or converted into bus lanes. No longer were motorists able to use a whole network of streets to reach their destinations. 

Bus Lanes LiverpoolBus Lanes LiverpoolNow they are forced to battle for space on the increasingly busy ring roads encircling the city, often resembling a peak-time parking lot. 

Millions of pounds have been spent “improving” key routes into the city centre, particularly Edge Lane. That meant clearing hundreds of Edwardian homes fronting the highway, leaving visitors to view tumble-weed wastelands. 

It seems not many car-owning commuters have surrendered to public transport, preferring to head to the city centre despite crammed roads and sky-high parking charges. 

If all of the millions of pounds spent on “improving” roads had been invested in providing far cheaper and efficient public transport, many more may have happily left their cars at home. 

Traffic-Camera-LiverpoolBig Dig supporters will no doubt point to the activity of the city centre now it has climbed the ranks of UK shopping destinations. They may well insist traffic jams would have been even worse had they not been let loose with their cache of no-entry and revenue-generating bus-lane signs and a squadron of heavy diggers to redesigned the road layout. 

If you think it’s bad here, the figures show three European countries have even worse rush-hour traffic congestion than the UK. Heading the congestion list is Belgium, followed by Holland, then Italy.

INRIX Europe Senior Vice President Stuart Marks said: "Traffic congestion is an excellent economic indicator telling us whether people are going to work, businesses are shipping products and consumers are spending money."


The 10 most congested areas in the UK in terms of hours drivers spent stuck in traffic in 2011:

1. London commuter zone 66

2. Greater Manchester 45

3. Liverpool 39

4. Birmingham 34

5. Belfast-Lisburn 33

6. Newcastle upon Tyne 33

7. South Nottinghamshire 32

8. Leeds-Bradford-Harrogate 30

9. Sheffield 29

10. Edinburgh-Lothian 29

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36 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

ExasperatedJune 25th 2012.

It seems that the planners are intent on creating a hopelessly sclerotic road system to suit the Liverpool we had twenty years ago when we barely had a rush hour.

Unfortunately this was exactly the wrong thing to do when the city's economy is growing, more people live in the centre and tourism has increased.

How much public money has been wasted pointlessly widening pavements to accommodate benches that only drunks and tramps would actually want to sit on? This also is a disincentive for those who might want to cycle to work as perfectly good, wide streets such as Castle Street have become narrowed and made one-way to stop cyclists using it.

It's the old, old Storey...

7 Responses: Reply To This...
scouse690June 27th 2012.

I disagree, I worked in Water Street from 1977-1979, then, in Victoria Street 1981-88, et al, we DID have a rush hour, and it was bloody mayhem!!
Widening the pavements have allowed a more cosmopolitan Cafe culture. Those benches, that you mention, are for our visitors and locals, with limited mobility, so that they can have a little rest in between seeing the fantastic sights that our City has to offer!

You obviously have NEVER had to sit on a bench, to rest your legs, SO GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE!!

The old,old story is coming from you!

Where do you have to cycle from to get to work? And where to?

You are the type that brings our City down...selfish!

AnonymousJune 27th 2012.

People with limited mobility? Where have they parked their cars? Surely the Council's closure of and selling-off all the public toilets put such people off visiting the city centre.

John JayJune 27th 2012.

With all due respect, your argument doesn't make sense. Liverpool has lost more people by far (in the absolute sense) over the last 40 years than any other city in the country. So much so, that over the same period, Liverpool's population has shrunk by a far greater number of people than the city of Newcastle EVER HAD...!!!

John JayJune 27th 2012.

Actually, the greater a city's congestion the greater its perceived prestige...! I bet If Manchester had not been named number 2 it would have caused ructions and questions about it in the House of Commons...!!
C'mon, you know what I say is true...!!!

John JayJune 27th 2012.

Why hasn't Liverpool got trams anymore...? It used to have the finest tramway system (and the best trams!) in the country - PLUS the first electric overhead railway system in the word. Liverpool has gone to the dogs. It wasn't only the the Titanic that sank... the name "LIVERPOOL" went down with it and I reckon the iceberg should be called "Manchester"...!!!

John JayJune 27th 2012.

Julie's right...!

AnonymousJuly 3rd 2012.

And your point is...?

Lord StreetJune 25th 2012.

Buses might be more popular if they went to places people needed to get to rather than being sent to slowly trundle circuitously around narrow back streets, get gridlocked in poorly-conceived junctions and have no proper bus station in the city centre.
I can remember when buses were a cheap, quick, direct and convenient form of transport for most work and shopping destinations in town as befitted a proper city. No longer.
Bus routes in the city centre seem to have been whimsically doodled on a map and the so-called bus station off Strand Street seems to have been 'designed' by a child, or at least no-one who has ever used buses or stood in a queue for one.

Big-Hearted ArthurJune 25th 2012.

Of the other countries mentioned, Belgium and Holland are two of the most densely populated in the world so it could be expected they'd have road congestion problems.

Liverpool has no excuse as within living memory it had a population twice what it is now. The current problem is nothing more than poor planning born out of a defeatist culture of 'managed decline' to which our politicians seem to subscribe.

Imagine how much worse it would be if we actually had full employment!

London RoadJune 26th 2012.

Big hearted Arthur for mayor, for Prime Minister, for World Domination!

Stinker MurdochJune 26th 2012.

For two people sharing a car it is cheaper to drive than to travel separately on overpriced, slow, smelly buses that take three times longer to get you to work.
In fact it is probably also cheaper to take a taxi because the bus fares are ridiculously high.

London RoadJune 26th 2012.

It is definitely cheaper to take a private hire taxi. There is now a flat fare on Arriva buses of £2 and £1.30 for children, which applies whether you are going two stops or twenty. Where is the sense in that? It is penalising the poor, once again.

Penny LayneJune 26th 2012.

The overpaid idiots responsible all this expensive chaos call it 'traffic calming'.

Paul WardJune 26th 2012.

Try commuting by car from Crosby - not only do you have the lunacy of the city centre, you have the glorious roadblock of Moor Lane/Liverpool Road - still, it's only fifty years since a bypass was mooted and Sefton have added a few mini roundabouts to help the mess.

Travel by bus - only if forced (and I mean electric cattle prods to the dangly bits) - a mixed journey is bad enough - getting off the train at Waterloo and seeing a 53 driver put his foot down when he sees people coming up the steps As for busses taking themselves out of service ...

Mickeydrippin'June 26th 2012.

Many people around the country who commute by train have successfully gained improvements to their services, by forming their own user local groups. So why don't those motorists who regularly sound-off about about petrol prices and the state of our roads start forming their own campaign groups or by joining national organisations such as Drivers' Alliance. It's no good just writing individually to your MP or the local media, success will only be achieved as part of a well-organised and articulate group.

Wet NellieJune 27th 2012.

It's not just motorists who suffer because roads are narrowed and congested. Passengers in buses and taxis are also heavily inconvenienced and cyclists are put off completely by narrower, more dangerous routes with lots of stopping and starting.

Darth FormbyJune 27th 2012.

Everyone else on the planet is a massive inconvenience. Outta my way! Don't you know I'm more important than you?

Big-Hearted ArthurJune 27th 2012.


1 Response: Reply To This...
scouse690June 27th 2012.

Nope! Not me (thank goodness!)

London RoadJune 27th 2012.

Julie, you are talking up your arse about widened pavements

1 Response: Reply To This...
scouse690June 27th 2012.

I was referring to the fact that Bars, Pubs, Eateries etc. can make the most of a "Cafe Culture"...after all, we need promote Liverpool as a cosmopolitan city! It will create jobs, too!

Liverpool wagJune 27th 2012.

That's not an image I'm enjoying, London Road

MaigretJune 27th 2012.

'Cafe culture'? Overpriced yank coffee in cardboard vases more like! Where are the chess and backgammon players? Where are the raconteurs?

Cheap aluminium chairs dripping with rainwater nine months of the year, widened pavements to attract loiterers, incapable binge drinkers and other undesirables.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
scouse690June 27th 2012.

Well, I've got to say that this is a load of rubbish! I was referring to Liverpool's cafe bars and restaurants!!...The "yank" coffee shops, and you missed out the Italian ones too, are very poor....as they are in every other City in the UK!
Your observation: "Cheap aluminium chairs dripping with rainwater nine months of the year, widened pavements to attract loiterers, incapable binge drinkers and other undesirables".

London 2012 will be totally "trounced" if we listened to you!

When was the last time you actually spent time in Liverpool?

Joe GladwinJune 28th 2012.

"London 2012"? What's that?

We want Preston 2012!

MaigretJuly 2nd 2012.

Julie, we ARE being trounced by London 2012, to the tune of £15 BILLION!

Hope StreetJune 27th 2012.

If I want cafe culture I'll to France or Spain where they do it properly. There are places in Liverpool that do get it right but strangely their pavements have not been widened and nor do they need to be.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 27th 2012.

So give us some names then, your recommendations would be welcome.....Ta

scouse690June 27th 2012.

You could also add Portugal, Greece, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium... et al...This does not mean that we cannot do it here in Liverpool!

Legs of ManJune 27th 2012.

Dale Street has been taken down to two lanes owing to these parking bays and widened pavements for your so-called cafe culture. Two lanes from four for one of the busiest arteries out of the city, you mad woman

2 Responses: Reply To This...
scouse690June 27th 2012.

You sad person. (just responding to the mad woman bit). Dale Street, Water Street, Victoria Street etc, is always busy from 4.00pm onwards...and always has been! Even when it was 4 lanes, it was bloody chaos..So do you reckon that we chuck out all of the ideas to promote our economy, just so that you have to wait a little longer in a traffic queue?? GET THE BUS OR THE TRAIN!! You must be being paid too much if you can afford to park all day, and every day, in the City...expenses, is the word that springs to mind!

Go and work/commute in London by car...you'll get the shock of your life!!

Big-Hearted ArthurJune 27th 2012.

Calm down missus! If our city's economy is to grow it a better bet to back commercial traffic, politicians and investors travelling in cars than relying on selling drinks to stranded people sitting in the rain.

They are far more likely to create better-paid jobs that bring money into the local economy than part-time, minimum-wage bar jobs which is all we'd get in this country. In Europe waiters are treated as professionals and paid accordingly. Here they'd starve because bar and cafe owners would rather employ young, surly louts in black t-shirts who will be rude to customers for £6ph or even less.

RobertJuly 5th 2012.

It's down to the CCMS 1 and CCMS 2 (City Centre Movement Strategy). CCMS 1 was a re-design of traffic flows based on tram scheme requirements / reconfiguring aspects of the city to handle Liverpool One passenger volumes...work had started on knocking roads around etc when the tram scheme was canned - resulting in the botched CCMS 2. At the time, funding for transport schemes was under the guidance of TiF (Transport Innovation Fund) principles... the worse your congestion the more money you received to address it. Might this be the answer you folks are looking for??

Penny LayneJuly 9th 2012.

What? They were going to squeeze trams into the narrowed roads as well?

Why don't the planners just brick up every street in the city centre and be done with it?

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