Staycationers choose M6toll for getaways as traffic volumes rise above pre-pandemic levels


Staycationers and leisure trippers choosing to use the M6toll for their getaway have driven traffic volumes above pre-pandemic levels for the first time since 2019, according to new traffic data from M6toll.

Data analysis conducted by the M6toll data team, shows traffic volumes in July are tracking at 20% above the UK national road average – with the surge driven by increasing numbers of local leisure trips and staycation journeys.

The M6toll data team report increasing traffic volumes since February, with the rise in numbers boosted by significant spikes during the last three lockdown easing milestones on March 29, April 12 and May 17.

The trends seen by the M6toll mirror a raft of recent findings on UK staycation plans and how such journeys are propelling increased traffic volumes. The RAC’s survey of 2,500 drivers regarding their summer staycation plans has revealed that drivers are planning in excess of 29 million staycation journeys this summer, resulting in unprecedented levels of traffic on UK roads.

A survey from Autoglass also found that four-in-five in drivers will be heading out to explore the country’s homegrown attractions. Further research from crowdsourced sat-nav app Waze is predicting a ‘Summer of Staycations’ that will cause increased traffic on UK roads.

The Waze research is suggesting a 52% increase on the number of UK holidays planned in a typical year. It’s bad news for drivers heading off on staycations – with 53% stating traffic as their biggest holiday gripe – with routes such as the M6, A30, A38, M5 and A303 likely to be hotbeds for traffic throughout the summer season.

All these recent survey findings echo the M6toll data team’s own predictions, with around 350,000 to 375,000 vehicles – a peak so far for this year – expected on the M6toll in August.

While the spike in traffic numbers in July and August is being accelerated by staycation journeys and leisure trips, the underlying trend of increased traffic volumes has been moving in an upward trajectory since the early part of the year. It’s a trend that is expected to maintain its momentum beyond the summer holiday period, with the return to work and school in September helping ensure traffic continues to recover back to pre-pandemic levels.

As a gauge of where the upward trajectory in traffic volumes began to gather pace earlier in the year, it’s best to assess the three significant lockdown easing milestones on March 29, April 12 and May 17.

On March 29 when official Government advice to stay local ended and unrestricted UK travel returned, the M6toll recorded just over 167,000 vehicles that week – a 19% increase on the previous week’s traffic volumes.

Moving forward to April 12, the weekly total of vehicles surged again, with just under 199,000 vehicles recorded, a 26% increase on the previous week’s numbers.

On May 17, M6toll vehicle numbers were recorded at 268,000 for the week, another marked increase on the two previous unlocking days. Since all restrictions were lifted on July 19, a further increase of up to 335,000 vehicles per week has been recorded, with the upward curve expected to continue on both the M6toll and the wider West Midlands and UK road network throughout the summer months.

Julie Davies, Commercial Director at Midland Expressway Ltd said: “We are seeing a really strong recovery in traffic volumes, with the M6toll peaking this month at 20% above the UK national average for the road network

“The M6toll has also seen consistent spikes in traffic volumes for each of the so-called unlocking days when restrictions were eased. As well as the recovery in traffic volumes being driven by staycation journeys and leisure trips, more people are also now getting back to normal work routines, resulting in increased commuter traffic on the road.

“However, with more people using their cars again comes increased congestion, both within the West Midlands region and the wider UK road network. It’s why we continue to strive to maintain the M6toll as a hassle-free, time-efficient alternative to congested local roads and an ideal through route to those using the road to get to work, local attractions and holiday destinations.”

The number of commercial vehicles using the road has also increased, with volumes for HGV traffic now exceeding pre-pandemic levels. In July 2021, the volume of HGVs using the M6toll was 8% up compared to the same time pre-pandemic in 2019.

This translates to an increase of 3,058 HGV vehicles a day in 2019, to 3,286 per day in 2021. It’s strong statistical evidence of businesses beginning to bounce back, with more HGVs on the West Midlands road network and increasing numbers of them choosing the M6toll as quicker alternative to more congested local routes.