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Car journeys up while bus and bicycle journeys down shows UK travelling in wrong direction, says IPPR

Yesterday’s statistics from the Department for Transport reveal that: 

  • The number of estimated miles travelled by all motor vehicles went up in 2023, reaching 330.8 billion, up 2.2 per cent from 2022. 
  • This is driven by an increase in car traffic with the estimated number of miles driven by cars and taxis rising by 3 per cent from 2022 levels to 251.3 billion vehicle miles. 
  • In contrast, traffic miles by buses, coaches and bicycles are down. Bus and coach traffic decreased by 1.7 per cent from 2022 levels, while pedal cycle traffic was 7.3 per cent below 2022 levels. 

 Dr Maya Singer Hobbs, senior research fellow reacts to yesterday’s data release

“The increase in car journeys and decrease in bus and bicycle journeys shows the UK is travelling in the wrong direction. The UK is sleepwalking towards a traffic-heavy future, with all the economic, social and environmental challenges that brings. 

“More cars on the road means more pollution, worse air quality and rising emissions. But people will continue to be reliant on their cars unless the government acts to fix the dire state of public transport around the country. Until people have safe, affordable and reliable options, progress will continue to be stuck in reverse gear.” 

IPPR’s research shows that the public want a different future for our transport system. Four in ten (40 per cent) of those who drive regularly want to use public transport more. Over a third (38 per cent) also want the opportunity to walk, wheel or cycle more than they currently do. The government needs a new transport strategy that reflects both the public’s desire to travel differently, and the pressing environmental and social imperatives to reduce car miles travelled. 

Dr Maya Singer Hobbs is available for interview 


  1. Data from ‘Provisional road traffic estimates, Great Britain: October 2022 to September 2023’:
  2. Motorway traffic increased by 2.4 per cent compared to 2022, carrying 69.9 billion vehicle miles. 
  3. More miles were driven on British roads last year. Vehicle miles travelled in Great Britain saw year-on-year growth in each year between 2013 and 2019, and then saw a sharp decline in 2020, due to the pandemic, followed by increases in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Traffic in 2023 is now only 2.3% lower when compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels. 
  4. This rise is not unexpected. IPPR analysis of the sixth carbon budget shows that the Climate Change Committee’s preferred approach to decarbonisation – the balanced pathway - could lead to an 11 per cent rise in traffic between 2021 and 2050. It also shows a potential 28 per cent increase in car ownership, rising from 34 million cars owned today to 43.6 million in 2050. 
  5. The IPPR paper, Who gets a good deal? Revealing public attitudes to transport in Great Britain by Stephen Frost and Maya Singer Hobbs is available for download at:
  6. IPPR’s analysis of the sixth carbon budget is found in the report All Aboard: a plan for fairly decarbonising how people travel which is available for download at:
  7. IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research) is an independent charity working towards a fairer, greener, and more prosperous society. We are researchers, communicators, and policy experts creating tangible progressive change, and turning bold ideas into common sense realities. Working across the UK, IPPR, IPPR North, and IPPR Scotland are deeply connected to the people of our nations and regions, and the issues our communities face. We have helped shape national conversations and progressive policy change for more than 30 years. From making the early case for the minimum wage and tackling regional inequality, to proposing a windfall tax on energy companies, IPPR’s research and policy work has put forward practical solutions for the crises facing society.
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