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Drivers – avoid these 10 worst areas in the UK for traffic

2-minute read

Sam Bromley

Sam Bromley

25 February 2020

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A comprehensive new study has revealed the worst cities in the UK for traffic. Which areas (and times of day) should drivers avoid?

Solving the UK’s congestion problem is high on the government’s agenda. Data technology firm Inrix says congestion cost the UK nearly £8 billion in 2018 – £1,317 per driver.

Now, location services company TomTom has compiled data on 416 cities in 57 countries to rank the most congested areas in the world.

We sifted through the research to find out the worst cities in the UK for traffic. TomTom also reveals the times you should avoid driving for a smoother journey.

UK traffic – where are the 10 worst areas?

TomTom’s congestion level refers to how much longer a journey takes compared to normal conditions. For example, Edinburgh’s 41 per cent congestion level means a 30-minute journey will take 41 per cent longer than usual.

TomTom says you can turn this into travel time using simple calculations:

0.41 x 30 mins = 12.3 mins extra average travel time


30 mins + 12.3 mins = 42.3 mins total average travel time

According to the research, these were the 10 worst areas for traffic in 2019:


Congestion level





Brighton and Hove
















The remaining worst 25 areas for UK traffic are:

  • Leicester (32 per cent)
  • Cardiff (30 per cent)
  • Liverpool (28 per cent)
  • Birmingham-Wolverhampton (28 per cent)
  • Stoke-on-Trent (28 per cent)
  • Sheffield (28 per cent)
  • Nottingham (27 per cent)
  • Leeds-Bradford (27 per cent)
  • Swansea (26 per cent)
  • Portsmouth (26 per cent)
  • Newcastle-Sunderland (25 per cent)
  • Glasgow (25 per cent)
  • Coventry (25 per cent)
  • Preston (23 per cent)
  • Middlesbrough (20 per cent)

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When are the best times to avoid UK traffic?

TomTom also revealed the worst times for traffic. So, when should you avoid driving in the five worst cities – and how much time could you save based on a 30-minute journey?

  • Edinburgh – Wednesday, 5pm-6pm (you could save eight hours a year driving after 6pm)
  • London – Thursday, 5pm-6pm (you could save three hours a year driving after 6pm)
  • Brighton and Hove – Tuesday 8am-9am (you could save seven hours a year driving before 8am)
  • Bournemouth – Wednesday, 5pm-6pm (you could save eight hours a year driving after 6pm)
  • Hull – Wednesday, 5pm-6pm (you could save nine hours a year driving after 6pm)

What’s the government doing about UK traffic?

In February 2020, the Department for Transport announced a £1.5 million investment in technology to tackle congestion in three major areas – Bournemouth, York and Oxfordshire. It said this “could cut road rage felt by frustrated drivers and promote the decarbonisation of our transport network.”

Boris Johnson has also hinted at further spending to improve the UK’s roads and infrastructure in general, promising “improvements from Cornwall, to the A1 north of Newcastle, from south Salisbury to south Ribble, from Cheadle to Chiverton, dual carriageways, roundabouts, bypasses, underpasses”. Will there be more details in Rishi Sunak’s first Budget announcement on 11 March?

How can you beat UK traffic?

The last thing you want to do as a busy tradesperson is sit in traffic. To beat congestion, TomTom says that you should:

  • get involved – with the government promising investment to tackle congestion, one way to get involved could be by helping to hold the government accountable
  • take alternative routes – TomTom says that planning your journey and looking for alternative routes can help you keep moving
  • avoid peak hours – working around peak times can mean you get hours back in saved time

See the full traffic index here.

Do these worst 10 areas for traffic match up to your own experiences as a driver? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sam Bromley

Written by

Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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