The true cost of congestion

7 December 2007  •  Author(s): Gareth Elliott, Policy Adviser, British Chambers of Commerce

High quality transport infrastructure is critical to the success of any economy. It is a vital part of the chain that links businesses with customers and suppliers. As a result, economic growth is strongly linked with the quality and length of a country’s transport network. The ability to travel further and faster opens up new markets and increases economic activity. Access to new markets leads to greater competition, which in turn leads to lower prices and therefore, higher incomes. Restricting a country’s ability to connect can only have a negative impact on economic growth.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), a network of 100,000 businesses representing five million employees, has recently undertaken a significant survey on our transport network. Worryingly, it shows that Britain is now being held back by its inadequate transport infrastructure. The BCC has recently released its 2007 Transport Survey in which the cost of the failings of Britain’s transport infrastructure to its businesses has been calculated at £18 billion. Expectations are that this is set to increase over the next 12 months. The UK is more heavily reliant on its road network than other European nations, yet investment over the last decade has failed to keep up with demand. Increases in car ownership have not been met with increases in road capacity which has resulted in crippling congestion. Road journey times rose for the first time in 1972 and continue to increase today. A new study by traffic information service, found that Britain’s cities are amongst the slowest in Europe. In fact, out of the top ten slowest, the UK has six entries with London being the slowest city of all.

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