Edinburgh and Glasgow congestion surges by up to 80% with latest lockdown easing
Traffic in Scotland’s two largest cities surged on Monday with the latest easing of Covid restrictions, new figures have shown.
The rise is believed to have been triggered by the re-opening of non-essential shops, cafes, restaurants, beer gardens, and museums and other attractions across Scotland.
Congestion levels in Edinburgh at 8am on Monday increased to 58 per cent compared to 32 per cent at the same time a week before – an 80 percentage point rise.
Over the whole day, the level increased from 34 per cent to 43 per cent – or up by more than a quarter.
In Glasgow, congestion at 8am went up by half from 30 per cent to 45 per cent compared to seven days before.
Across the day, it increased by more than a third, from 23 per cent to 31 per cent.
Stephanie Leonard, head of traffic innovation and policy at information firm TomTom, which provided the figures to The Scotsman, said: “Our real-time traffic data gives us an understanding of the levels of traffic congestion in towns and cities globally.
This data shows a significant increase in traffic congestion on the roads, a sign that Covid-19 rules have eased across Scotland.
"This could demonstrate that while Scotland is slowly beginning to return back to normality with non-essential retail opening, driving still remains as the chosen choice of transport as we continue to navigate through the pandemic.”
The IAM RoadSmart motoring group said increasing people’s confidence in travelling by bus and train again was vital to prevent congestion rising.
Neil Greig, its Scotland-based policy and research director, said “Whilst if is good news that activity is returning to normal levels, it is no real surprise the car is bouncing back much quicker as the preferred mode of travel for most Scots.
"If we are to avoid gridlock, it is vital the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and operators work even harder to increase confidence in the safety of public transport.
"Bus, rail and ferry use has fallen of a cliff in the last year and getting people to start using them again is going to be a challenge.
"In the meantime, it is vital our roads are better managed to maximise efficiency.
"This means coordinating roadworks and responding to incidents faster than ever before.
"It is also critical that temporary traffic arrangements put in place due to the pandemic are reviewed to ensure they are delivering congestion reduction benefits.”
However, sustainable transport campaigners Transform Scotland said congestion should not accepted as a return to normality.
Director Colin Howden said: “We need to avoid returning to congested, polluted cities.
"While the past year’s lockdowns have caused huge disruption, they have also allowed people to see how cities could be better if they had clean air and much lower levels of traffic.
"We need instead to be making sure our cities are places where walking and cycling become the first choices for most local travel.
"It would be disappointing if congestion itself is seen as some sort of proxy for a return to ’normal’."