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Have we reached peak congestion?

The government has awarded £4 million for tech projects to cut congestion in England, while several cities across Europe are revealing plans to ban cars from urban centres altogether.

The government has awarded £4 million for tech projects to cut congestion in England, while several cities across Europe are revealing plans to ban cars from urban centres altogether.

Apps that notify motorists of congestion and available parking spaces, and real-time journey information are among the projects that will receive a share of the government funding, announced on 21 February.

In the North West, Warrington council has been awarded £300,000 to use smart technology provide real-time journey information to businesses and the public through on-street information displays, social media and phone apps.

Blackpool council has also been awarded £234,000 to use Bluetooth technology to cut traffic congestion and manage available parking spaces. 

Andrew Jones, roads minister at the Department for Transport, said the projects would help “cut congestion, speed up journeys, clean up the environment and improve accessibility”. 

Global comparison

According to a recent global study, the UK has the worst traffic congestion in the EU.

Manchester was found to be the second most congested city after London, with drivers spending 10 per cent of their total drive time in congestion in 2016 – costing the city £233 million.

Congestion is also high on the agenda because of ongoing concerns over urban air pollution, which is mostly caused by vehicles, particularly diesels.

Many UK cities, including Manchester, are exploring the feasibility of introducing Clean Air Zones to restrict use of certain vehicles. London has already announced that a new emissions surcharge will apply to the most polluting vehicles in the city from October 2017.

Several major cities across Europe are already taking bolds steps to deal with the same problem.

City leadership

As of July 2016, drivers in Paris with cars made before 1997 are fined for driving in the city centre on weekdays, and in future certain streets will be limited to electric vehicles only. In 2014, the city banned cars with even-numbered number plates for a day, causing a 30 per cent drop in air pollution.

In Madrid, a large section of the city centre will be car-free by 2020, with 24 of the city’s busiest streets being redesigned for walking rather than driving. The most polluting cars will also pay more to park in city centre locations.

Oslo plans to permanently ban all cars from its city centre by 2019 and is investing heavily in public transportation and removing roads. 

Athens has also announced that it will ban diesel cars from its city centre by 2025, while Stuttgart will start imposing bans on older diesel vehicles during periods of high pollution from 2018.

The UK’s own approach will be answered in a forthcoming air pollution plan expected in August 2017.