UK roads deserted in lockdown, as traffic drops to 1955 levels

Published: 06 April 2020

► UK road traffic plummets
Roads as busy as in 1955
Coronavirus lockdown latest

UK road traffic has plunged to levels not seen since 1955, official figures show. The UK lockdown to halt the spread of coronavirus has restricted the public to only essential travel, leaving many roads deserted.

Government figures show road travel has reduced by up to 73%, with journeys by private car falling the most. Lorry trips have decreased by a more modest 40%, as essential supplies continue to move around the country.

The Guardian newspaper scrutinised Cabinet Office transport data and found the number of road miles travelled has not been as low since 1955 – an era when Winston Churchill was prime minister and there were no motorways criss-crossing the United Kingdom. Just five million cars and vans were registered in 1955, compared with 36m today.

The public’s use of public transport has fallen even more dramatically: rail travel is down 90%, while Londoners are taking 94% fewer Tube trips.

Noise and air pollution have nosedived, but it’s too early for conclusive proof according to data scientists. Campaigners are worried that traffic will bounce back after the Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control, but others suggest that the radical shift to home-working may continue, disrupting regular commuting patterns.

Further reading on coronavirus and the car world

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UK car sales collapse 97% in coronavirus pandemic

Motoring events and racing cancelled by coronavirus

How to request a car finance payment holiday if you’re struggling to repay your PCP

Manufacturers start making ventilators for hospitals

MoT tests are suspended for six months

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet