Expert Blog

Which is the world’s most congested city?

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Everyone hates being stuck in traffic. There are few things more frustrating than tailbacks making us late for work in the morning or delaying our return home in the evening. And yet, congestion is a grim fact of daily life, especially in big cities.

But which city’s residents have it worst? A new report by INRIX Research, its ‘Global Traffic Scorecard’, sets out to quantify congestion in 1,064 cities in 38 countries around the world. Using real-time GPS data and traffic flow information, INRIX has put together a global league table of congestion, with cities ranked by the number of hours the average car commuter spent in traffic during peak times in 2016.


The fact that Los Angeles is at the top of this league won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s tried driving through California’s biggest city – or to anyone who’s seen the opening of La La Land. Tinseltown commuters spent an average of 104 hours in peak-time congestion in 2016 – 26 minutes per working day. Indeed, five of ten most congested cities are in the United States, alongside two South American and three European cities.

The UK's most congested cities

London makes the top ten, ranking seventh in the world and second in Europe, behind only Moscow. Drivers in London were stuck in peak traffic for an average of 73 hours last year, equating to 18 minutes per working day. Unsurprisingly, London is apart from the UK’s other cities when it comes to congestion. The next most congested is Manchester, which ranks 82nd in the world with an average of 39 hours spent in peak traffic in 2016. Britain’s top ten is shown in our second graph, below.

As a whole, the UK ranks as the 11th most congested country of the 38 INRIX has analysed. Interestingly, despite so many of its cities being very congested, the US doesn’t come top overall. That spot’s taken by Thailand, with the US tying for fourth with Russia.


Of course, time spent in traffic incurs very real economic costs, from the extra fuel consumed and emissions produced to the working hours lost. INRIX estimates the value of that time, and uses it to convert hours and minutes into pounds and pence. Their conclusion? ‘Congestion cost drivers in the UK more than £30 billion in 2016.’ Londoners alone incurred £6.2 billion of that cost, an average of £1,911 per driver in the capital.

A significant part of these costs is environmental: the damage done by the extra carbon dioxide and air pollutants emitted by cars caught in traffic. One way to reduce this damage is, obviously, to reduce congestion. But another way is to break the link between congestion and emissions by making cars cleaner.

This is, of course, the aim of policies encouraging motorists to switch to alternatively-fuelled, low emission vehicles, such as London’s planned Ultra Low Emission Zone. We’ll have more on these policies, and their effectiveness, on this blog as part of our series on Alternatively-Fuelled Vehicles. Watch this space.

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