How does traffic congestion in Ipswich compare to pre lockdown?

Traffic in Norwich Road

Traffic in Norwich Road is back to near pre-pandemic levels, but rush-hour congestion has not returned yet. - Credit: Paul Geater

The amount of traffic back on Ipswich roads is almost back at pre-pandemic levels - but changes to our travel patterns means rush-hour congestion is more spread out.

Suffolk County Council has recorders surveying traffic on four main routes in the town: Warren Heath, Nacton Road, Norwich Road, and Yarmouth Road.

They have been comparing traffic levels from early March 2020 (pre-lockdown), late March 2020 (at the start of the first lockdown), June,  September and January 2021, and again from last month.

The latest figures show traffic in April was up to 97% of the pre-pandemic level.

However in three of the locations traffic at the morning peak is below the level seen in March 2020 - and the afternoon peak is also slightly lower. That has meant that county council traffic planners believe that congestion is not yet a significant problem.

In Yarmouth Road traffic levels are now exceeding what they were in March 2020.

Yarmouth Road in Ipswich

There is now more traffic in Yarmouth than before the pandemic. - Credit: Google

At present most office-based staff are continuing to work from home and official government advice is that people should work from home if they are able to do so - but that is set to change if social distancing rules are scrapped as planned on June 21. 

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There have been suggestions that the government advice on working from home could change with the next easing steps planned for May 17.

Council officials believe that another reason traffic levels have risen is because people are still discouraged from using public transport - and car-sharing is banned except for those in the same household.

Town centre business group Ipswich Central is hoping that workers will return to their offices once restrictions are lifted because it would give the heart of Ipswich a big boost.

But chief executive Paul Clement said it was too early to judge what would happen: "We need to wait until the end of June to see what will happen with people returning to work and by then hopefully pubs and cafes will be able to operate as normal - that's when we will really know whether things are getting back to normal."

Mr Clement felt that in the long-term there would probably be some degree of "hybrid" work between office and home - but said many firms were keen to get staff back to offices and it was wrong to write off the prospect of a return to the previous way of working.

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