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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 16:54 GMT
Can traffic congestion be controlled?
The Highways Agency is not taking enough action to end traffic jams on England's roads according to the National Audit Office.

The NAO says that although congestion has risen by 14% since 1995 the Agency has been too slow in introducing modern methods of traffic management used in other countries.

It also needs to be better prepared for big events such as sports fixtures and concerts which can cause huge jams.

Is the Highways Agency doing enough to solve the country's traffic problems? What action should be taken to reduce road congestion? Where are the worst places in Britain for traffic jams?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Everything in this country is done back-to-front. First thing has to be the improvement of public transport to make it cheap, reliable and safe. Then people will use it. In my case it makes absolutely no sense to use public transport at all. By car I go door-to-door, spend around 3 a day, take 20 minutes to get to work, and know the car won't be smelling of urine and full of thugs. By bus (as the train takes 3hrs and has 4 changes to get 10 miles), I probably couldn't even get to the end of my street for 3 return, I would spend 40 minutes on it, and would risk being late for work every day, because it is so unreliable. Hmm, some choice.
Rob, UK

Car users should realise that motorbikes are part of the solution not part of the problem
James Williams, Essex, UK
Traffic congenstion drove me to start using a motorbike, so now it doesn't bother me much. I would like to see motorcycle use encouraged and made safer, not by concentrating on motorcyclists, but on the awful driving standards of many car drivers. It is a common occurrence for some homicidal maniac to move towards the centre of the road to stop me from filtering through a jam. Car users should realise that motorbikes are part of the solution not part of the problem. If I wasn't using my bike to get to work, I would be yet another car in the queue!
James Williams, Essex UK

On a recent trip to France, it took me 2 hours and 20 minutes to get from Valence to Charles de Gaulle airport by TGV, a trip of about 350 miles. Only an idiot would use a car in those circumstances. Invest in public transportation to reduce congestion. You know it makes sense.
Charles, New York, USA

Simple, we need to sort out our public transport system. I use trains (I have to drive to the station first though, no public transport will get me there!) but am seriously considering driving to avoid all the hassle and unreliability I regularly have to deal with. That's with the added bonus of paying over 330 pounds just for the monthly ticket!
Mags, Nr Newbury, UK

Drivers need to be reminded of basic highway code rules to help traffic flow
Lee, Newport, Wales
Driver attitude has a large part to play in traffic congestion. More should be done to prevent illegal parking that obstructs roads and even being courteous to allow other vehicles to pull out at junctions will prevent some congestion. It has come to the point where drivers need to be reminded of basic highway code rules to help traffic flow - as seen by the "don't hog middle lane" signs on trial on some motorways. This is a step in the right direction but a simple awareness campaign could be more productive than planning new roads as the majority of drivers have forgotten the Highway code.
Lee, Newport, Wales

I would stop using the car and catch the train to work, but I can't afford the 3,700 per year it would cost me to do so. It's far cheaper for me to drive.
Steve, Reading, UK

Remove all these ridiculous sets of traffic lights! At the main junction through our town there are SEVEN sets of traffic lights within a few 100 yards of each other! Admittedly 4 of them are a cross roads but the other 3 are totally useless. Since they were installed traffic has gone from bad to worse with queues about twice as long as they used to be! Plus there is no right turn filter on one of them-creating even more queues! Who designs these systems? They clearly never use them themselves!
Lianne, Manchester

A large part of the problem of congestion on the British road system is due to the huge percentage of freight carried by road. For decades the rail network has been reduced and under funded and now we can't move on the roads for HGV's. It is time this country had an agreed transport strategy properly funded and not at the whim of governments, who by their very nature prefer short term solutions with an eye on the next election.
Dave Thompson, Bournemouth UK

I'm afraid congestion will be a way of life for many years to come.
Paul Weekes, London
The only way to solve congestion in this country is to force people out of their cars by increasing the cost. However, this is political suicide. Any government can only tinker around the edges of the problem. Britons love their cars because they have become a status symbol. I'm afraid congestion will be a way of life for many years to come.
Paul Weekes, London

My main gripe with traffic congestion is due to the SUV/4x4 phenomenon, and is nothing to do with the less-than-one-year-old Highways Agency's remit. I am spending more time in my car because of these vehicles blocking smaller roads, taking up two lanes at junctions and blocking my view because I can't see through or round them at junctions.
Andrew M, Walsall, UK

The Highways Agency is just another Government anti-car facade. Of course there is more congestion. Roads have been narrowed to allow for bus and cycle lanes, traffic lights have been re-phased and traffic-calming measures introduced to deliberately slow down vehicles. Until we get rid of the anti-choice eco-fascists there will be no change.
Phil, London UK

Because I did not fancy moving my family from Calne to Warton I now work 37 miles from home and my journey is mostly along A-roads and stress free. Listening to the BBC Radio 2 this morning on my drive to work, I heard mention of a scheme used in other countries were, during rush hours, 4 lanes are allocated to the direction of the greatest traffic flow. How simple, how clever, how unlikely for the politicians of this country to adopt it?
Tony H, Middle Wallop, UK

It is estimated that over 1 million cars are driving without insurance, tax and MOT. Get these cars off the road (permanently) and you have gone a long way to reducing the congestion problem.
T. Winter, Thames Diton, UK

Make trains and buses affordable and functional and the problem would solve itself. At the moment, the government is incentivised to promote car use because drivers are such a lovely source of revenue.
Mike, London, UK

There's only one way. A massive investment by the state (we've seen that private enterprise can't do it) in public transport must be undertaken. When that's in place, make it cheap to use and then make it difficult for car users by limiting parking and using charging zones. I've come back from Vienna recently and for 12.5 euros, about 9, I had seven days travel on the buses, underground, trams and local railways. They were clean, frequent (never more than a few minutes wait) and reliable. With transport like that who would want to use a car?
David, Manchester, UK.

The problems on the main road I use to work can certainly be solved. Some time ago when traffic was restricted from changing lanes and lorries restricted to the inside lane, surprise, surprise! No jams. Also, the moment the schools are on holiday the rest of us can get to work. Stop the lane switching and the school run. It might not work everywhere but it would work here.
Christy, Newcastle, UK

The congestion charge in London is working, but people are parking in the suburbs and then commuting, so the problem has been shifted. We need to get cars off the road completely, or problems just change location. Increase fuel taxation and condemn those that are too lazy or afraid of a drop of rain to walk 5 mins to work. Introduce mandatory car pooling like in California, where you are given priority to faster lanes, colour code cars so they cannot be used one day per week (unless in a proven emergency) like in Mexico city. Create more designated cycles lanes like in Amsterdam, make public transport more efficient and cheaper, like in France. If we looked at how other nations did it, we would be fine. The options are endless. Someone just needs to implement the methods.
Philip Pike, Colchester

I've seen loads of parents who drive their kids 200m to the school bus stop
Carol, Basildon, UK
Put more freight on the trains like they do in the US. We need less trucks on our rods. Oh, and reduce the number of school runs - they don't occur because of distance to school but because parents don't think it's safe for children to walk, but if all children did it would be safe! Or maybe it's laziness - I've seen loads of parents who drive their kids 200m to the school bus stop!
Carol, Basildon, UK

I would absolutely love to be able to get rid of my car, thereby saving considerable expense, but the public transport system is so unreliable and infrequent that I am unable to do so.
Barbara, UK

Mile after mile of cones and if you are lucky somewhere you will see workmen! An empty lane closed too "to protect workforce" if they are actually there! Take a leaf out of the German's book and keep traffic flowing with rolling repairs so that a few hundred yards of one lane only are closed, or reduce all lanes to a minimum width. Come on Britain - catch up!
Dave, Doncaster, England

People live miles away from where they work, miles from where they send their kids school...
Richard, London, UK
We've created this crazy travelling culture, where people live miles away from where they work, miles from where they send their kids school, and miles from where they have to shop. Until this is tackled strategically and with a long-term view, the Highways Agency is merely flogging a dead horse.
Richard, London, UK

Could a series of school buses not be introduced, as in the USA? It's one thing they seem to get right! It reduces traffic congestion, delivers children safely to school on time, and would significantly reduce the number of vehicles moving outside schools. It is noticeable when schools have half term holidays as the roads are so much easier to use!
Richard, Cambridge, UK

Most of the congestion is, obviously, caused by the two rush hours each day. Very simple solution if you have to drive to work is to beat the rush hour by getting to work early and leaving later. In London this has the added benefit of escaping the congestion charge (as long as you get in before 7 and leave after 630). Easy - no congestion charge and no congestion full stop!
Chris, London, UK

HGVs should be banned from overtaking at peak hours
Oliver Shore, London
HGVs should be banned from overtaking at peak hours as they can create a rolling road block that is limited to around 50mph.
Oliver Shore, London

Bring in flying cars like in 'Blade Runner'! It will give us a couple of hundred years' respite until we clog the 3rd dimension too.
George, Manchester

Just a thought - if we start using the hard shoulder to drive on, it will inevitably also become grid locked. When this happens, how will the emergency services get through if they're needed?
Manda, Glasgow, Scotland

The M4 bus lane is the most ridiculous idea I have ever seen to cut congestion. Particularly on a Sunday evening, when traffic is queued right next to a completely empty lane.
Mike, London

Make it law that children walk to school, if it's within 1 mile
Zoe, Watford
In school term time, my journey to work time is trebled. Could we tackle the obesity of children at the same time and make it law that children walk to school, if it's within 1 mile?
Zoe, Watford

Remove a higher proportion of single occupant vehicles by promoting motorcycling instead of persecuting it.
Dan Thornton, Peterborough

All the problems on the roads near me are caused by speed bumps. Maybe the bumps should be removed and instead road safety improved by putting in barriers along the pavements, or heaven forbid, telling pedestrians to stay out of the road.
Dave Pallett, Slough, UK

If public transport was cheaper and more reliable then I think people would use it more. If I had a bus route that got me to work in time I wouldn't use the car. I have to be at work for nine and the earliest bus into the town is 09:30. Useless.
Claire Cumberland, Worksop England

Some responsibility for our decisions has to be ours
JC, Hampshire, UK
I am responsible for the level of traffic, and so are you. Some responsibility for our decisions has to be ours! I moved nearer work and schools and now cycle (and save thousands of pounds).
JC, Hampshire, UK

Similar to the 'Variable Speed Limit' solution, whereby a device could be fitted to the rear of each car that lights up when a vehicle is decelerating (even when it isn't braking) this stops following vehicles from braking hard and helps smooth out traffic flow.
Stephen Hinds, Manchester, England

We need more roads and we need them fast! We depend on cars and all those who think we could live without them I have a question. How do you go to Lake District, Scotland, Cornwell? I am sure they don't walk! We need more roads, more flyovers, less speed cameras, less traffic lights !
Denis, London

If they want to reduce congestion they really need to stop introducing oddball "traffic calming" schemes. The one introduced on the A/M77 from Glasgow just meant there were longer queues, not shorter.
Anon, Ayrshire

I'm not going to rely on public transport until it is reliable, clean, comfortable
Keith, Leeds, UK
I'm not going to rely on public transport until it is reliable, clean, comfortable - and the rights of passengers are protected. Unruly, foul-mouthed, idiotic kids put me off taking the bus - because I couldn't do anything about them and the bus company also "could not do anything about it".
Keith, Leeds, UK

Nationalise public transport, get it working, if only to pay for itself. With prices affordable on transport running on time and at the right frequency, the transport problem would stop.
Mark Stevenson, Pontefract

Car use is too popular at the moment, therefore it would seem to me that anything that made it even more attractive should be resisted.
Mark Fairman, Matlock UK

One of the biggest issues in the south-east is the number of homes being built. I drove through Wiltshire last weekend and was astonished - wide, empty roads, loads of building space, no congestion. And what does that fool Prescott do? Stick 250,000 homes in the Thames Gateway.
Russell Long, Tunbridge Wells, UK

We need to speed up road works
Simon, London
We need to speed up road works. How often do we see a mile of cones, and they are protecting just a wheelbarrow! If they worked around the clock on motorway repairs, the additional cost of paying overtime etc would be wiped out by the savings in industry from peoples time not being wasted sat in a queue.
Simon, London

I commute to London every day by motorcycle which takes 30 mins - if I took the car it would take 1 hour 15 mins. Maybe if motorcycling was encouraged and seen as a greener solution, this would help to a certain extent to reduce unnecessary congestion and pollution. If we could use bus lanes, hard shoulders (to avoid filtering through stationary M-way traffic) and be allowed to park on pavements (where safe to do so) many more people would leave their cars at home thus reducing the sheer volume of traffic.
Vince Bell, Knebworth, UK

Here in Oxford, they have something called the Oxford Transport Scheme which has been in place for a couple of years now, if anything with the various bus lanes and the huge amount of traffic lights it has made the situation much worse. I am sure that at certain times of the day (when Oxford has got it's quota of workers/visitors) the length of time the lights are on green slows down to stop/deter additional people trying to get into the city centre.
JD, Oxford

Allow overtaking on the left
Dougie Lawson, Basingstoke, UK
The simple answer is allow overtaking on the left. That stops everyone having to shift right to overtake. (Effectively that's what the variable speed limit on the M25 allows). Overtaking on the inside works well in America.
Dougie Lawson, Basingstoke, UK

Every road journey you make, especially on the motorways, you can find people breaking the law. If speed limits were actually enforced, we could fit more cars on the road, since the distance between one vehicle and the next would be reduced. Even better, enforce the law by banning speeders for a week or a month rather than giving them tiny fines. That way, you reduce the number of cars on the road and give a punishment that would deter re-offenders.
Dave Waghorn, Southampton, UK

Encourage companies out of the South East!
Emma, Aylesbury

Checking on the website, a return train ticket between Manchester and London, getting me there before 9am on Monday is 151. I wonder why people use their cars!
Tony, UK

Why not introduce the limiting of HGV movement at peak times. Certainly seems to work very well in Germany. Sorry, just realised, the all powerful road transport lobby wouldn't approve.
Simon T, Leamington, UK

There is a ridiculous proliferation of traffic lights
Peter Willis, Bristol, UK
A great deal of city traffic congestion is caused by unnecessary and heavy-handed traffic control systems. There are far too many one-way streets. Often these simply confuse the motorist and lead to longer routes through a town. There is a ridiculous proliferation of traffic lights which for most of the day only hinder the traffic flow. And why have traffic lights on a roundabout, ever? I think traffic lights should only be operated during peak hours and at other times a driver's common sense can prevail at junctions
Peter Willis, Bristol, UK

Don't blame the poor old Highways Agency for congestion. The real issue is that homes are in one place, shops in another and jobs somewhere else entirely.
Joe Pendlebury, Hayling Island, Hampshire

The problem is that we're all waiting for everyone else to give up their car first.
Chas, London, England

The problem is convincing people to give up their warm comfortable cars
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK
Public transport is the key to solving traffic congestion. Everyone I know who has a car lives further away than they should from their work and they spend more on their car than they do on their mortgage or rent. Everyone I know who relies on public transport lives closer to their work and they spend a lot less time and money getting there. The problem is convincing people to give up their warm comfortable cars for a cold wet platform at 8am waiting for yet another delayed or cancelled train and then standing up for the 20 minute journey when it does show up. Here in the Netherlands public transport is paid for by the employer so it's a lot more attractive than car transport anyway.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK

We have a system of railway lines running the length and breadth of the country. We should move the heavy goods off the roads onto the railways where possible. This would alleviate not only a lot of the slower moving vehicles, but also cause much less damage to the surfaces.
Bob, Accrington, Lancashire

The traffic light sequences are deliberately modified to ensure more traffic builds up
Dean, UK
Here in Leeds, they are currently running a pilot scheme aimed at introducing a congestion charge. The traffic light sequences are deliberately modified to ensure more traffic builds up so that they can warrant introducing a charge. This coincides with the fact that the super tram project is a farce, way over budget and the only way they made it more feasible is by cutting the routes. Absolutely pathetic and indicative of this government's thirst for cash off the motorist.
Dean, UK

If Dean UK's comments are correct and the sequence of traffic lights are changed to deliberately increase congestion and hence increase the calls for a congestion charge is it not time the motoring organizations looked into this and possibility of taking legal action against unscrupulous council doing this!
Michael, Darlington UK

I got fed up of commuting by car years ago and decided to do something about it. I changed jobs so that I could either walk or cycle to work. Not everybody is able to make these choices but surely more people could do so. Waiting for the authorities to solve the problem seems a little futile.
Griff, Cardiff, Wales

I spend a significant amount of time on the road and think poor road planning is the main reason for traffic problems. In Birmingham we have major roadworks on the M6 at present - bus lanes have been abolished during the works on other roads and surprise they are running absolutely perfectly! Let's get some common sense into our road planning.
Adam, Midlands, UK

On arrival at Dover a sign should simply read: "Welcome to Britain, the world's largest car park".
Patrick V. Staton, Guildford, UK

The main through traffic is being held up by one or two vehicles turning left or right
Reg Pither, London, England
One of the simplest and immediately beneficial actions that could be taken would be to install filter lights and/or lanes at many of London's busy, narrow junctions. I've sat in traffic so often and noted that the main through traffic is being held up by one or two vehicles turning left or right, when there is plenty of space to expand the width of the road for a short distance at the junction. But no, instead we get reduced road width and 'traffic calming' - but 'driver enraging' - measures that merely increase congestion.
Reg Pither, London, England

With an increasing population and many households now having more then one car I think , if anything, that it is going to get worse no matter how much the Highways Agency takes action. The only way I can see, is to cut the amount of cars that are being used per house hold and improve the bus and train systems.
Chris, Horley, UK

Much of the congestion in towns is caused by the school run, which is mostly down to the fact that pupils now have to travel so far to school they must either be driven or catch the school bus (what school bus?) That has been caused by parents' right to choose, and the closure of so many local schools. Most of the motorway congestion has several causes. No alternative way of transporting goods, or people, between towns and cities. Single occupant cars, and sales reps who have to cover huge sections of the country because their companies won't employ more people. And then there are the foreign lorries. Address the underlying causes and you can lessen the problem dramatically. The Highways Agency isn't to blame for this, we are.
Elaine, Letchworth Garden City, UK

Roads agency 'not beating jams'
26 Nov 04 |  Politics

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