BRIGHTON and Hove’s roads remain in the top five most car-clogged in the country and despite dropping from third worst to fifth worst, the problem is worse than ever.
GARETH DAVIES and SACHA KURUCZ report on the latest figures behind the issue grinding commuters’ gears.
ON AVERAGE, travel times in Brighton and Hove are 31% longer than they would be in free-flowing, uncongested conditions – a figure that’s up one percentage point from last year.
During morning rush hour, this figure increases to 51% and in the evening rush hour motorists are stuck in traffic for 52% longer as they scramble to get home from the office.
Last year, Brighton and Hove was third only to Birmingham and London in the list of the worst cities in the country for congestion.
But this year Belfast, Bristol and Edinburgh have become worse that Brighton and Hove, leaving the city fifth worst in the TomTom Traffic Index.
The report also suggests that drivers using rat runs may actually be making their journeys slower.
Typically, Brighton and Hove commuters face delays of 30 minutes for every hour they spend in rush-hour traffic compared to last year’s figure of 27 minutes.
And drivers with just a 30 minute commute will waste more than three full days in their cars stuck in traffic jams each year.
This means a person who works 9-5 in the city from the age of 18 to 60 will spend a staggering 19 weeks of their lives in stationary traffic on their way to and from work.
Steve Percy, from the People’s Parking Protest, blamed the poor modifications made by the Green administration for the congestion and the subsequent increase in travel times.
He said: “If these council road projects continue I can almost guarantee cars will be going 50% slower this time next year.
“The Lewes Road Gyratory and Valley Gardens are two examples of this.
“We used to have two roads going into the city and two going out, but to accommodate for the cycle lanes and bus lanes you’ve got two lanes chopped into one and that slows traffic almost automatically by 50%.
“The Green Party is supposed to be getting everything squeaky clean, but pollution is through the roof.
“I’m always driving through Brighton and Hove, and I can barely get out of second gear.
“Driving along the seafront is murderous – and it’s the commuters and holiday makers I feel sorry for.
“This extra time people are spending in cars could be spent socialising or working so that they can earn a bit of extra money.
“It’s all well and good saying jump on a bus, but I did it the other week and it was awful – the seats were uncomfortable and the noise was terrible.
“And on top of that, it’s cheaper for a family of four to have a car than to be using the buses.”
Councillor Ian Davey, deputy leader of Brighton and Hove City Council and lead member for transport, said: “Tackling congestion has been an issue in Brighton and Hove for many years, as it is for many cities.
“Brighton and Hove is the busiest seaside resort in the country and attracts millions of visitors every year.
“Managing the demand that popularity places on the road network is a major challenge.”
Some members of public blamed the ongoing roadworks in the city as one reason for the traffic issues.
One of Sussex’s busiest roads, the A23, has been the subject of wide-scale debate since work began on widening the carriageway back in October 2011.
Coun Davey added: “Widening of key roads into the city just shifts the problem elsewhere as traffic is funnelled into our smaller residential streets.
“Given how built up Brighton and Hove is, widening roads here really isn’t an option even if we had the funds to do so.
“That is why we are focussed on making better use of the space we have through encouraging bus, train and taxi use alongside walking and cycling.
“All of these are becoming more popular choices for getting into and around the city.
“The introduction of 20mph limits has also improved the flow of traffic in the city and we are currently finalising the roadworks permit scheme which will give the council powers it doesn’t currently have to prevent disruptive roadworks.”
Some commuters disagreed, and claimed the 20mph zones introduced by Jason Kitkat’s Green administration were directly contributing to the problem.
But Councillor Graham Cox, Conservative transport spokesman, sided with Coun Davey.
He said: “As much as I’d like to jump on that, I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest the 20mph zones are responsible for this.
“They smooth the flow of traffic much like you see on the motorway so that cars travel at a steady speed as opposed to speeding up and stopping.
“I don’t think the zones have contributed to or eased the traffic.
“And as far as pollution is concerned, I think this is far more to do with filthy diesel engines.
“I think some of it is inevitable unfortunately when we’re stuck with infrastructure which was built before cars were invented.
“There is just no magic bullet answer to this problem.
“Real time fazing of traffic lights could be looked at because that’s not always done as well as it could be.
“And we’re forever trying to get people onto the buses, but they are not immune to it because buses get held up as well.”
Labour Councillor Gill Mitchell also believed that buses were the answer, and in particular the need to utilise park and ride facilities outside the city.
She said: “It’s not good for anyone.
“It’s obviously not good for the commuters, it’s not good for businesses with deliveries being delayed and it’s not good for residents because of the air quality.
“I think it’s an ongoing problem and unfortunately there is not one single solution.
“Having said that, it has always been a Labour group policy to try to take cars out of the city by utilising more park and ride facilities.
“We know there are limitations with the National Park, but The Albion run a very successful park and ride system and we want to see that extended during busy periods such as Christmas, Bank Holidays and the summer months.
“What we need is good public transport, to stop unnecessary short car journeys in the city and a system that allows motorists to leave their cars outside the city.”
Traffic expert TomTom analysed more than ten trillion pieces of data worldwide to compile its traffic index.
Harold Goddijn, chief executive officer for TomTom, said: “Traffic congestion is nothing new, and continues to be a global challenge.
“The traditional responses to congestion - such as building new roads or widening existing ones - are no longer proving to be effective.
“Real time traffic information can help drivers find the quickest shortcut on their journey, and assist governments to make smarter decisions to improve traffic flow for their cities.”
It is estimated that time lost as a result of traffic congestion costs the UK economy £2 billion a year and the situation is set to get worse despite a £28 billion plan for road improvements in the UK.
The Government has forecast four million more drivers on UK roads by 2030 and that, by 2040, the volume of traffic will have risen by 40%.
The TomTom Traffic Index is the only global measurement of traffic congestion, comparing travel times during non-congested hours with travel times in peak hours experienced by passenger vehicles.
The Index takes into account local roads, main roads and motorways across 180 cities in six continents.