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Belfast UK's most congested city with drivers stuck in jams 200 hours a year

By Adrian Rutherford

Belfast has been named the UK's worst city for traffic congestion.

Drivers spend up to 200 hours a year stuck in jams - and the problem is getting worse, a survey has revealed.

Overall congestion in Belfast is up 3% on last year and is at the highest level since satnav company TomTom began its ranking in 2008.

Belfast now outstrips UK cities such as London and Birmingham for traffic chaos - and is the 18th most congested city in the world.

Today's report shows:

  • The most congested road was the M2/Nelson Street/York Link junction.
  • Drivers in Belfast spend an extra 87% of their time stuck in traffic at peak morning and evening times compared to a free flow situation.
  • Congestion in Belfast adds up to 200 hours of extra travel time per year - an average of 8.3 days a year.
  • The most congested day in Belfast last year was Tuesday, November 15 when a lorry lost its load, causing gridlock across the city and delaying a Northern Ireland football match.

Roads expert Wesley Johnston said it was clear Belfast was a very car-dependent city.

"This is in keeping with all UK cities, but the effect is more pronounced in Belfast due to the Troubles," he said.

"The violence tended to create a greater decrease in the use of public transport, as buses were routinely being hijacked, and encouraged a greater degree of movement to suburbs and satellite towns to escape the city, leading to an increase in commuting.

"Until around the millennium, it was still official Government policy here to try to meet demand with road building.

"It has since been accepted that the only way to accommodate all the cars that want to use the city streets would be road widening and demolition on a scale that would destroy much of the city centre.

"The resultant decision not to keep up with demand leads inevitably to increasing congestion."

Mr Johnston said total journey time was more important to people than the percentage congestion level, which is how TomTom measures journeys.

"It is relevant that Belfast is a small city - there is open countryside less than two miles from City Hall," he added.

"For example, a journey in Belfast that takes 30 minutes off-peak might take an hour in the rush hour, whereas a commute in London that takes two hours off-peak might take three hours in the rush hour.

"Although the former is technically more congested, it is still a shorter commute time-wise."

The TomTom Traffic Index 2016 details the cities around the world with the worst congestion.

Nationally, the UK's traffic congestion level has increased by 5% since last year.

Drivers are now spending an average extra five days a year in jams.

Ten other UK cities are in the top 100, including Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Bristol and Newcastle. The only other country to have more cities in the top 100 was China.

Although London is the third most congested city in the UK, when looking at the global picture of cities with a population of more than 800,000, it becomes the first UK city to be referenced - coming in at number 25.

In Europe, Bucharest (50%) knocked Moscow (44%) off last year's top spot for most congested large city. Mexico City is the most congested city in the world, with drivers facing an average of 66% extra travel time.

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