Data commentary

Data commentary

This section is intended to provide a useful interpretation of some of the key data in each RoadFile section, highlighting how the data may provide further insight/support investigations into road-related issues. Any reliance placed on the data and/or this interpretation is strictly at the user’s discretion. (see Guidance section)

Road network

The length of the GB road network has remained constant over the last decade, while road-usage continues to rise.

  • The length of the GB road network has remained fairly constant over the last decade. (Please note the methodology used by the Department for Transport (DfT) for its classification of road length by road type has differed in some years. This has resulted in broader definitions of road types in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019, which is why there are no road lengths reported for C and U roads in these years – with these road lengths accounted for by the DfT under the ‘all minor roads’ category.)
  • Road-usage has increased significantly between 2010-2019:
    • Road usage across all vehicle types – up 17%
    • Car and taxi usage – up 16%
    • Light commercial vehicles – up 34%
    • Heavy good vehicles (HGV) – up 6%
  • The UK is ranked 18th out of 29 European counties in terms of motorway density per 1000km2.
  • The European average for the number of cars per km of motorway is 3,450. In the UK, this figure is more than twice as high – with x 8,212 cars per km of motorway, indicating that GB motorways are more heavily trafficked, by cars, than the European average.


GB traffic volume increased by 16.6% between 2010-2019, with the North East and East of England reporting the highest regional increases.

  • The motorway network across England, Scotland and Wales increased by 50.7 miles between 2010-19, mostly as a result of the reclassification/upgrading of some A roads. See
  • Yorkshire and Humber and the North East experienced the largest growth in motorway lengths, while the North West and Scotland saw the biggest increase in major road lengths.
  • The North East of England saw the largest change in the volume of traffic – up 20.1% between 2009-2020.
  • The last decade has seen rapid growth in the number of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) on GB roads – rising from under 10,000 in 2010, to more than 450,000 in 2019. Data shows that Yorkshire and the West Midlands had the largest percentage increase in uptake.

Road usage

There has been a modal shift in GB road usage since 2000, with declining passenger journeys on buses and coaches, but increased journeys by foot, bike and taxis. Domestic freight transported by road has increased by 9% since 2010.  

  • Overall, across all modes of transport in Britain, passenger journeys (billion passenger per km) increased by 8% since 2000.
  • Passenger journeys by bus/coach and by motorcycle, fell between 2000-2019, while rail, air and pedal cycle use grew significantly in this time period.  
  • Road use across all types of road vehicle increased by 3.5% between 2000-2019, with passenger journeys by cars, vans and taxis (billion passenger per km) increasing by 5.3%.
  • The latest figures on commuting do not cover the period impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The figures do however indicate a small fall in the percentage of people commuting by car since 2010.
  • The DfT defines the difference between freight moved and freight lifted as follows: “Freight activity is either measured in terms of the weight of goods (tonnes) carried, taking no account of the distance they are carried (termed ‘goods lifted’), or as ‘goods moved’ (tonne kilometres) which does take into account distance. ‘Goods moved’ for each loaded journey is the weight of the load multiplied by the distance it is carried, and therefore a better measure of the activity done by heavy goods vehicles.” See
  • Latest figures show that, in 2019, 79% of domestic freight – the equivalent of 196 billion tonne kilometres – was moved by road. This is an increase of 9% since 2010.

Traffic volume

The biggest change in traffic has been the increase in the number of licensed light commercial vehicles which grew by more than 75% between 2000-2019.

Local roads are showing a disproportionate increase in traffic volumes in comparison with motorways and A roads.

  • There were 4.4 million new licensed vehicles on GB roads in 2019 than in 2010, including 31,000 more HGVs and more than 900,000 light commercial vehicles.
  • In 2019, the latest year of available data, there were more than 500,000 licensed HGVs in Britain. This is 6.7% higher than in 2010.
  • Between 2010-2019 the number of licensed cars grew by 12.2%, in comparison the growth in light and commercial vehicles was 28.5% for the same period. The growth in light commercial vehicles between 2000-2019 is 75%.
  • Traffic volumes (billion vehicle miles) across Britain increased 23% between 2000-2019, or the equivalent of 16.6% for the period 2010-2019.
  • Overall traffic (billion vehicle miles by road class) has increased by 16.6% since 2010. On motorways the increase is 15.5% while across minor roads the increase has been 25.2%.


In Britain, CO2 emissions from cars have fallen by 3% since 2010. In contrast, emissions from HGV’s have risen by 11% in the same period and, for light vans, the increase is 21%. 

  • Average fuel consumption for artic HGVs has increased 18.4% since 2010, with a 12.5% year on year increase between 2015-2016.
  • In 2010, 62% of the petrol pump price comprised of taxes in 2019 this figure was 63%.
  • The last decade has seen rapid growth in the number of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) on GB roads – rising from under 10,000 in 2010, to more than 450,000 in 2019.


The number of fatalities recorded on UK roads has fallen 5% since 2010, but fatal or serious accidents have increased on non-A-roads.  

  • The number of fatal or serious accidents on Britain’s motorways has fallen by 2% since 2010. In contrast the number of fatalities or serious accidents on non- A roads has increased by 18% across the same timeframe.
  • France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Romania reported higher number of road fatalities than the UK in 2019.

Road User Charging

Across the former EU28, only The Netherlands generates less income than the UK from road user charging.

  • The net income generated by the London Congestion Charge has increased 223% since the first year it was introduced in 2003/4.
  • In 2018-19 Transport for London (TfL) received £146.7 million net income from the London Congestion Charge.


Public expenditure on national roads exceeded that on local roads for the first time in 2019.

  • DfT figures report that annual public expenditure on national roads increased by more than 96% since 2012, whereas, for local roads, the increase
    was just 9.7%. 
  • The AIA’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey reported in 2019 that it would cost £9.79 billion and take ten years to get local roads in England and Wales back into a steady state if adequate resources were in place. In its 2020 ALARM report this figure had increased to £11.14 billion, with a time frame of 11 years needed to bring the local road network up to scratch.
    Download the latest ALARM report at:

Guidance notes:

  • Transport is a devolved issue in the UK with the devolved Governments for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland having responsibility for many transport-related policy and operational issues. See
  • The term Britain used across RoadFile refers to Great Britain (GB), including Scotland and Wales, but excluding Northern Ireland. All figures relate to GB unless otherwise stated.
    • All Department for Transport (DfT) figures relate to GB unless otherwise stated.

    • The Asphalt Industry’s Annual Local Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey covers England, Wales and London.

    • Eurostat data includes the former EU 28 with its data for the UK covering Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland.

  • Freight data refers to domestic road freight transport by goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross weight.
  • Disclaimer: While we have used our reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the data used in this website, RoadFile, its associated organisations and/or their employees do not assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, or completeness of any information provided. The burden of fitness of the data lies completely with the user.

Further sources of information: