New research reveals England’s slowest areas to drive in

Getting stuck in traffic is incredibly tedious and frustrating if you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry. Traffic is caused by many factors, just a few of the more common reasons are the weather, road conditions, roadworks, and accidents. However, all of these don’t compare to the biggest contributor or all, which is just the sheet number of vehicles on the rod, especially during rush hour, as many people drive to and from work.

There are some parts of the country and the world where you can’t escape traffic congestion, as opposed to other places where you’re likely to sail through without issue. But where are the slowest cities in the country, and how does English traffic compare to the rest of the world?

The car finance experts at Moneybarn have compared some of the biggest cities in England, as well as various countries around the world on factors such as average traffic speed and congestion levels to find out.

England’s slowest towns & cities

Slowest towns and cities

Bristol – 8.51/10 (overall slow traffic score)

Bristol is England’s slowest city, with the southwestern city being named the best city to live in Britain as recently as 2017, however it is not so great if you want to drive somewhere in a hurry! Bristol scored poorly in every ranking category and it was this consistently slow performance that earned them the number one spot. The average annual hours lost in traffic was 91, and 10% of its ‘B’ and ‘C’ roads require maintenance, as well as 9% of the ‘A’ roads and motorways.

Nottingham – 8.28/10 (overall slow traffic score)

The second slowest city in England is Nottingham. The East Midlands city is an epicentre of evil in Robin Hood mythology, but in reality, it is the traffic that is truly terrifying. A massive 10% of all ‘A’ roads and motorways in the city require maintenance, which is the highest of any cities in the study. On top of this, the average speed of traffic in the city is just 14 miles per hour (mph), with only motorists in Brighton achieving a lower average speed.

Liverpool – 7.88/10 (overall slow traffic score)

Liverpool is the city with the third worst traffic in England, making it the slowest city in the north. Although Liverpool’s ‘A’ roads and motorways are in fairly good nick, it has the worst ‘B’ and ‘C’ roads of any major city in the country, as an astonishing 15% of them should be considered for maintenance. Additionally, the average delay in Liverpool is over 83 seconds per vehicle per mile (spvpm) and there is an average daily traffic flow of over 1,250 vehicles.

Fastest towns and cities

Middlesbrough – 0.80/10 (overall slow traffic score)

The fastest town in England is Middlesbrough, which has a reputation as a tough working-class town, growing around the largely defunct coal, steel and ship mining industries that dominated the coastal North East of England. While most of the shipyards have gone, thankfully for Teesiders, so has the traffic. Middlesbrough has the third shortest average delay time, as well as the second lowest average hours lost in congestion.

Darlington – 1.84/10 (overall slow traffic score)

Around 15 miles west of Middlesbrough is the market town of Darlington, another large settlement in the North East. Historically, Darlington is more famous for its railways than its roads, as it was the site of the world’s first steam-powered passenger railway when the Stockton and Darlington line opened in 1825. However, in 2023 it is the speed of the town’s roads that are impressive, as there is an average delay of under 30 spvpm, and an average speed of almost 30 mph.

Peterborough – 2.01/10 (overall slow traffic score)

The third fastest town or city is Peterborough, situated in Eastern England, Peterborough is the fastest area with city status (although its population is almost identical to Middlesbrough’s). Known for its Gothic cathedral and Trent University, Peterborough has the smallest average delay in traffic, as drivers only lose around 22 spvpm, over 40 seconds fewer than the nationwide city average.

England’s slowest towns & cities ranked

Town/cityRegionAverage speed (mph)Average delay (spvpm)A-roads & motorways requiring maintenanceB & C Roads that should be considered for maintenanceAnnual average daily traffic flowAverage annual hours lost in congestion Overall slow traffic score /10
1BristolSouth West16789%10%1,306918.51
2NottinghamEast Midlands149410%6%944718.28
3LiverpoolNorth West16847%15%1,258507.88
4LondonLondon151148%5%5591567.70
5ManchesterNorth West17775%6%1,486847.42
6LeicesterEast Midlands18677%12%876627.13
7BirminghamWest Midlands18735%4%3,216736.84
8Brighton and HoveSouth East131076%4%696526.67
9ReadingSouth East14969%6%313416.49
10DerbyEast Midlands21586%14%1,048465.81
11SouthamptonSouth East15924%3%543565.69
12Stoke-on-TrentWest Midlands20576%10%769505.46
13PlymouthSouth West17742%4%854615.29
14Kingston upon HullYorkshire & the Humber16832%2%688685.17
15BlackpoolNorth West18646%9%303384.89
16LeedsYorkshire & the Humber24443%2%3,784604.66
17BlackburnNorth West19585%9%397284.20
18WiganNorth West20582%1%1,133614.08
19SheffieldYorkshire & the Humber22471%2%1,566543.85
20Newcastle upon TyneNorth East18702%1%943403.68
21SwindonSouth West24433%4%1,123323.62
22LutonEast of England20574%4%443383.51
23PortsmouthSouth East18663%1%671343.28
24DoncasterYorkshire & the Humber28332%2%1,959433.16
25CoventryWest Midlands24342%2%1,069412.76
26WarringtonNorth West24441%1%1,528222.24
27BedfordEast of England25402%3%764252.13
28PeterboroughEast of England36221%4%1,079292.01
29DarlingtonNorth East28301%5%473351.84
30MiddlesbroughNorth East27331%1%673240.80

England’s fastest towns & cities ranked

Town/cityRegionAverage speed (mph)Average delay (spvpm)A-roads & motorways requiring maintenanceB & C Roads that should be considered for maintenanceAnnual average daily traffic flowAverage annual hours lost in congestion Overall slow traffic score /10
1MiddlesbroughNorth East27331%1%673240.80
2DarlingtonNorth East28301%5%473351.84
3PeterboroughEast of England36221%4%1,079292.01
4BedfordEast of England25402%3%764252.13
5WarringtonNorth West24441%1%1,528222.24
6CoventryWest Midlands24342%2%1,069412.76
7DoncasterYorkshire & the Humber28332%2%1,959433.16
8PortsmouthSouth East18663%1%671343.28
9LutonEast of England20574%4%443383.51
10SwindonSouth West24433%4%1,123323.62
11Newcastle upon TyneNorth East18702%1%943403.68
12SheffieldYorkshire & the Humber22471%2%1,566543.85
13WiganNorth West20582%1%1,133614.08
14BlackburnNorth West19585%9%397284.20
15LeedsYorkshire & the Humber24443%2%3,784604.66
16BlackpoolNorth West18646%9%303384.89
17Kingston upon HullYorkshire & the Humber16832%2%688685.17
18PlymouthSouth West17742%4%854615.29
19Stoke-on-TrentWest Midlands20576%10%769505.46
20SouthamptonSouth East15924%3%543565.69
21DerbyEast Midlands21586%14%1,048465.81
22ReadingSouth East14969%6%313416.49
23Brighton and HoveSouth East131076%4%696526.67
24BirminghamWest Midlands18735%4%3,216736.84
25LeicesterEast Midlands18677%12%876627.13
26ManchesterNorth West17775%6%1,486847.42
27LondonLondon151148%5%5591567.70
28LiverpoolNorth West16847%15%1,258507.88
29NottinghamEast Midlands149410%6%944718.28
30BristolSouth West16789%10%1,306918.51

The world’s slowest countries

Peru – 8.45/10 (overall slow traffic score)

The South American country of Peru is a beautiful wonder full of spectacular mountains, vibrant cities and ancient ruins of the Inca empire. However, their roads are not so spectacular, and it ranked as the worst country of those studied. Its Numbeo traffic score was over 220, one of only two countries scoring over 200, there are also 26 days of high traffic in their cities and the average congestion level is 42%.

Romania – 7.83/10 (overall slow traffic score)

Romania is home to the Transfăgărășan highway, a 56-mile stretch of mountain road which is considered ‘the best road in the world’ by television presenter and motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson. Unfortunately, this road does not reflect the country as a whole, as Romania is the second slowest country studied. There is an average congestion level of 50%, which is the highest in the study. Moreover, there are only nine days a year with low traffic, and the road quality score is just 3/10.

Israel – 7.35/10 (overall slow traffic score)

The third slowest country is Israel. The Middle Eastern nation narrowly edged out Mexico to secure the infamy of a podium position. One of the reasons Israel ranked so highly is the 17 days of high congestion and the 40% average congestion level. The road quality score was also just 4.9, but cutting across the country would not be advised, as certain disputed areas of Israel are littered with unexploded land mines.

The world’s fastest countries

United States – 2.94/10 (overall slow traffic score)

At the other end of the spectrum is the USA, which ranked as the fastest country for car travel and traffic. Although those living or commuting in central Los Angeles or New York would not agree with this, the United States as a whole is a good country for traffic. There is an average of just six days per year of high traffic, and there is a high top speed limit in urban areas of 50mph.

United Arab Emirates – 2.95/10 (overall slow traffic score)

The UAE is a nation known as a haven for petrolheads, and it backs this up by ranking as the second fastest country in the world. As it is an oil-rich nation, the price of petrol is very cheap in the country and many wealthy members of the population own high-performance supercars. The top speed limit in the UAE is just shy of 100 mph, meaning cars can be legally driven faster in no other country except Germany. The UAE also has a high road quality score of 6/7.

Malaysia – 3.63/10 (overall slow traffic score)

Incredibly, Malaysia has 0 days of high traffic, and a monumental 164 days of low traffic, with these factors contributing to Malaysia being the third fastest country in the world. The Asian country also scored highly for its road quality score and average congestion levels but was let down by a low maximum speed limit of 68 mph.

The world’s slowest countries

CountryAverage congestion levelAverage days with high trafficAverage days with low trafficHighest speed limit in towns (mph)Highest speed limit (mph)Road quality score /7Numbeo traffic index scoreOverall slow traffic score /10
1Peru42%266331623.22208.45
2Romania50%16931813.01247.83
3Israel41%173131754.91547.35
4Mexico38%62431684.51757.20
5Latvia22%122431683.61086.73
6Poland32%181531874.31146.58
7Belgium20%224131754.41466.55
8Chile39%388131755.21286.49
9Argentina31%132237813.61756.46
10India48%25431754.52046.46
11Singapore29%6431566.51486.43
12Iceland17%111031564.1896.31
13Ireland31%33631754.41506.13
14Italy23%213831814.41306.13
15Norway15%202431684.5935.98
16Bulgaria30%101131873.4995.95
17Hungary30%103631814.01265.92
18Indonesia34%78737624.21925.83
19Philippines43%710850623.71885.83
20Brazil29%83444753.01735.80
21Turkey29%204931875.01905.80
22Czech Republic22%122231813.9915.77
23Luxembourg28%151831815.51095.74
24Sweden18%11631755.3985.71
25Estonia27%4631754.7845.57
26Slovakia25%113831814.01015.57
27Greece31%104131814.61335.54
28Switzerland26%10731756.3935.51
29France24%101131815.41295.48
30New Zealand16%83731684.51305.39
31Spain17%141831755.71055.39
32Lithuania27%112731814.8905.21
33South Africa18%102837754.51905.21
34United Kingdom24%44030704.91345.21
35Slovenia22%143231814.9995.12
36Japan34%4137756.11345.09
37Saudi Arabia15%41331755.21375.09
38Finland17%8731755.3834.91
39Germany22%1624312785.31054.82
40Thailand31%315850754.41744.61
41Denmark19%101031815.6884.47
42Australia22%42337814.91544.23
43Austria22%102431816.0794.08
44Portugal18%75631756.01114.02
45Netherlands20%71531816.4893.96
46Canada19%73650755.01403.93
47Malaysia21%016437685.31683.63
48United Arab Emirates14%4450996.01682.95
49United States17%61455855.51522.94

The world’s fastest countries

CountryAverage congestion levelAverage days with high trafficAverage days with low trafficHighest speed limit in towns (mph)Highest speed limit (mph)Road quality score /7Numbeo traffic index scoreOverall slow traffic score /10
1United States17%61455855.51522.94
2United Arab Emirates14%4450996.01682.95
3Malaysia21%016437685.31683.63
4Canada19%73650755.01403.93
5Netherlands20%71531816.4893.96
6Portugal18%75631756.01114.02
7Austria22%102431816.0794.08
8Australia22%42337814.91544.23
9Denmark19%101031815.6884.47
10Thailand31%315850754.41744.61
11Germany22%1624312785.31054.82
12Finland17%8731755.3834.91
13Japan34%4137756.11345.09
14Saudi Arabia15%41331755.21375.09
15Slovenia22%143231814.9995.12
16Lithuania27%112731814.8905.21
17South Africa18%102837754.51905.21
18United Kingdom24%44030704.91345.21
19New Zealand16%83731684.51305.39
20Spain17%141831755.71055.39
21France24%101131815.41295.48
22Switzerland26%10731756.3935.51
23Greece31%104131814.61335.54
24Estonia27%4631754.7845.57
25Slovakia25%113831814.01015.57
26Sweden18%11631755.3985.71
27Luxembourg28%151831815.51095.74
28Czech Republic22%122231813.9915.77
29Brazil29%83444753.01735.80
30Turkey29%204931875.01905.80
31Indonesia34%78737624.21925.83
32Philippines43%710850623.71885.83
33Hungary30%103631814.01265.92
34Bulgaria30%101131873.4995.95
35Norway15%202431684.5935.98
36Ireland31%33631754.41506.13
37Italy23%213831814.41306.13
38Iceland17%111031564.1896.31
39Singapore29%6431566.51486.43
40Argentina31%132237813.61756.46
41India48%25431754.52046.46
42Chile39%388131755.21286.49
43Belgium20%224131754.41466.55
44Poland32%181531874.31146.58
45Latvia22%122431683.61086.73
46Mexico38%62431684.51757.20
47Israel41%173131754.91547.35
48Romania50%16931813.01247.83
49Peru42%266331623.22208.45

Methodology

For both England and the rest of the world, we looked at a number of factors relating to congestion on the roads, giving each place a normalised score out of ten for each factor, before taking an average of all of these scores to create our final traffic score.

England

Average speed

The average speed on local A-roads in miles per hour, according to the Department for Transport’s average speed, delay and reliability of travel times data.

A-roads & motorways requiring maintenance

The percentage of A-roads and motorways where maintenance should be considered, according to the Department for Transport’s road condition statistics data tables.

Annual average daily traffic flow

The average motor vehicle flow according to the Department for Transport’s road traffic statistics.

This refers to the number of vehicles passing an average point in a 24-hour period, to show the number of vehicles in an area while taking into account the different lengths of roads in different places.

Average hours lost in congestion

The average annual hours lost in peak commute periods compare to free-flow conditions per person according to INRIX’s 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard.

Global

Average congestion level

The congestion level according to TomTom’s 2021 Traffic Index. This percentage shows the additional time that a journey would take in each city when compared to free-flow conditions. For each country we took an average score of all their cities.

Average days with low traffic

Is the average number of days per year with congestion at least 50% lower than the corresponding day the previous year, according to TomTom’s 2021 Traffic Index. Whereas, high traffic is days with congestion 50% higher than that day the previous year.

Highest speed limit

The highest permitted speed limit in the country in kilometres per hour, according to Wikipedia’s speed limits by country page, we then converted this to miles per hour.

Road quality score

The quality of road infrastructure score out of seven according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.

Numbeo traffic index score

A score taking into account time consumed in traffic, time consumption dissatisfaction, CO2 consumption in traffic and overall inefficiencies in the traffic system, according to Numbeo, with a lower score being better.

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