Traffic volumes in Somerset increased through the 1990s and early 2000s but then dipped following the economic recession in 2007/08, dropping 4% between 2008 and 2012. Since 2012, total miles travelled have increased by 12% and in 2018 were beyond the 2008 level.
- In the last decade, van (LGV) volumes have seen the biggest proportional increases, and continue to grow.
- Motor cycle volumes have experienced the greatest decline.
- The total number of vehicles licensed to Somerset residents and businesses rose by 16% between 2010 and 2019, to over 412,000.
Trends in overall traffic volumes
The Department for Transport (DfT) carries out regular street level traffic counts at various points on major and minor roads around the country. These are supplemented by occasional counts on minor routes as part of the overall DfT National Road Traffic Survey.
Total road traffic in Somerset has increased by 46% since 1993. However, following the economic recession, volumes fell between 2009 and 2012 and only returned to pre-recession levels in 2016. In 2018, Somerset's estimated annual traffic volume was 4.31 billion vehicle miles.
Similar trends were seen nationally and in neighbouring local authority areas, with a decrease in vehicle miles between 2008 and 2012 also seen in Devon, Cornwall and Wiltshire. Somerset, and all 3 of these counties also saw a small decrease in total miles in 2018 compared to 2017, however it is too early to say whether this is the start of a downward trend.
The trends vary according to the type of vehicle. In 2014, car volumes comprised 77% of all traffic volumes and showed a 9% increase since 2000. However, car volumes fell in 2014 to a level 7% below those of the peak year, 2006 (see below).
Light goods vehicles (vans) defied the recession, reaching record traffic volumes in 2014, 51% higher than in 2000. In contrast, Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs, or lorries) experienced a decline of 8% since 2000 and volumes continue to fall.
Volumes amongst Motor cycles, Pedal cycles and Buses/coaches have also decreased during the past ten years, although Motor cycle traffic has edged up slightly from 2012's low point.
Traffic Volume Trends on Major Roads in Somerset by Vehicle category
|Buses & Coaches
Source: Department for Transport
The stretch of road with the highest traffic volume is the M5 between Junctions 24 and 25, with an estimated 224 million vehicle miles in 2018. The highest volume on an A road is the A303 between the A356 and A358, near South Petherton (87 million vehicle miles).
Licensed Vehicles in Somerset
- Between 2010 and 2019, the total number of vehicles licensed to registered keepers in Somerset increased by 16% to 412,748.
- In the same period, the England total rose by only 12%
- The numbers of registered LGVs showed a much larger increase over the same period, increasing 32% to 49,500.
- The 'Other vehicle' category (including taxis and farm vehicles) expanded by more than 31% to 16,425.
- The numbers of registered HGVs remain below pre-recession levels, having slightly decreased since 2010 to a 2019 total of 5,930.
- Numbers of licensed Motorcycles have increased by 7% in the same period, to 17,615 in 2019.
- At district level, the biggest increase in total licensed vehicles between 2010 and 2019 has been seen in Sedgemoor at 18%, with Mendip, South Somerset, and Somerset West & Taunton all increasing at 16%.
The table below shows annual trends in the numbers of licensed cars and all vehicles since 2010
- For road traffic statistics in all LAs, visit the DfT Road Traffic Statistics web site.
- Somerset statistics on this DfT web site can be found here.