Revealed: Just how much car journeys have shrunk in Lancashire

Pandemic sees a big fall in people using cars on the county's roads

The number of miles covered by cars in Lancashire plummeted by a quarter last year with travel impacted by the coronavirus lockdown, figures show.

Last year saw the fewest miles driven on the area's roads by motorists since the turn of the century.

But any respite in traffic levels will soon be over, says the RAC which predicts a busy summer on the roads as restrictions are eased.

An empty M6 on May Bank Holiday weekend in 2020

Data from the Department for Transport shows cars and taxis covered an estimated 4.8bn miles on Lancashire's roads during 2020.

That was 24 per cent fewer than in 2019 when 6.4bn miles were covered.

It was a similar picture across Great Britain with the number of miles of car journeys down 25 per cent.

The DfT said the figures were heavily impacted by the effects of the coronavirus, with restrictions on travel in place through many months of last year.

Yet early indications from the Government show traffic could return to 2019 levels as lockdown is eased.

And the RAC has said it has already noticed an increase in vehicles on the road this year, adding it expected a busy summer.

Nicholas Lyes, head of policy, said: “With traffic now creeping back up to near-normal levels and restrictions due to ease further in the next few weeks, we expect it to be a busy summer on the roads.”

But the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, a group which represents the bus and coach industry, says it hopes people do not return to their cars.

The group wants the country to avoid a “car-based recovery”. Instead, it hopes to encourage people to use public transport.

Alison Edwards, head of policy at the group, said: "This means ensuring that public transport is not left behind other areas of the economy in the ongoing social distancing review and ministers overtly encouraging people back onto buses and coaches.

“Without this we will see greater congestion slowing our economic recovery along with worsening air quality and increased carbon emissions.”

However, the RAC said its research had showed lockdown had strengthened the importance people place in owning a car.

The figures from the DfT also show car travel made up 76 per cent of all road miles in Lancashire in 2020, with lorries and commercial vans making up the rest.

The total milage for all traffic was 6.3bn miles, down 21 per cent from 8 billion miles in 2019.

The DfT said a fall in the number of miles driven on the country's roads had conincided with fewer accidents and faster journey times on major roads.

A spokesperson said work was being done with transport operators to ensure “good levels of service” as the pandemic eases.