News, Technology

UK Traffic congestion is on the rise

Traffic congestion in the UK’s biggest cities is 14 per cent worse than it was just five years ago.

That’s according to the annual Traffic Index from TomTom which shows across the rest of Europe, average congestion is actually 3 per cent down over the same period.

The annual Traffic Index shows average UK journeys in 2015 took 29 per cent longer than they would in free-flowing conditions – up from a 25 per cent delay in 2010. The analysis of 14 trillion pieces of traffic data worldwide showed that the morning rush hour is almost 10 per cent more congested than in 2010, with the evening peak nearly a fifth (19 per cent) worse – suggesting that people return home in a narrower time period in the evenings.

The average commuter driving to and from work in the UK’s top 25 cities wasted 127 hours (more than 5 whole days) stuck in traffic during 2015. Congestion has got 4 per cent worse in the past year alone. It’s risen in 17 of the 25 UK cities in the report, with a further 4 remaining about the same. Only Nottingham, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Preston have shown slight decreases.

In 295 cities globally Belfast was once again the most congested city in the UK – and 14th worst in the world. Journey times in 2015 were 40 per cent slower than free-flow traffic throughout the day – peaking at 86 per cent longer in the evening rush hour.

London is the 20th most congested city worldwide – and second worst in the UK - with journey times 38 per cent slower, rising to 66 per cent in the evening peak. The Northern Powerhouse of Manchester (37 per cent slower) moves up into third place, overtaking Edinburgh (37 per cent) and Brighton (34 per cent). The next five worst cities for congestion are Hull, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Bristol and Sheffield.

“Transport authorities are managing congestion with well-engineered policies, but you can’t just build your way out of traffic jams” said Ralf-Peter Schaefer, Vice-President of TomTom Traffic. "Studies have shown that policies of ‘predict and provide’ are unsustainable. Building new motorways and ring roads doesn’t eliminate congestion. More must be done to better manage existing road space and to spread demand.

“People simply aren’t doing enough to change their travel habits - such as working flexible hours, avoiding peak commuting times, making use of real–time traffic information and trying alternative travel modes. If only five per cent of us changed our travel plans, we could improve traffic congestion on our main roads by up to thirty per cent”.

Globally, Istanbul has been knocked off the top spot by Mexico City. Commuters in the Mexican capital can expect to spend 59 per cent extra travel time stuck in traffic during the day, rising to 94 per cent in the evening peak period – a total of 219 wasted hours a year. The next most congested big cities worldwide are Bangkok (57 per cent), Istanbul (50 per cent), Rio de Janeiro (47 per cent) and Moscow (44 per cent).

TomTom has been collecting traffic data since 2008 and over that period, the UK city that has recorded the largest overall growth in congestion is Coventry - up a staggering 67 per cent. Stoke-on-Trent has seen the biggest increase in rush hour congestion, at 44 per cent. But Cardiff can give itself a pat on the back, with overall congestion down 19 per cent since 2008.

The TomTom Traffic Index is the only global measurement of congestion comparing travel times between non-congested hours and rush hour periods, for passenger vehicles. It takes into account local roads, main roads and motorways across 295 cities in 38 countries on six continents.


Vauxhall signs Police deal

Vauxhall has signed one of the UK's biggest Police fleet deals with over 2,000 vehicles destined for official Police business.

The deal includes 1,200 Brit-built Astras for Police forces nationwide, with the two-year multi-million pound contract also including Corsas, Insignias and Brit-built Vivaro vans. This order cements Vauxhall's position as the largest provider of low and intermediate performance cars to the UK Police, with a 60 per cent share of competitive markets.

All Astra models can be equipped with OnStar technology which keeps the car connected via satellite and cellular networks, turning the vehicle in to a 'high-speed 4G LTE mobile hub with connectivity for up to seven smartphones or tablets' says Vauxhall. The OnStar system includes a Police-spec ignition block, which can be triggered remotely in the event of a vehicle being stolen.

Procurement for the mammoth sale was led by West Midlands Police with vehicles set to join 28 Police forces. Six fire and rescue services are also included in the agreement which sees vehicles heading to East and West Sussex, Northamptonshire, Shropshire, Surrey and Staffordshire.

David Wilkin, West Midlands Police's Director of Resources and the national policing lead for the procurement of vehicles commented: "A vehicle purchasing collaboration between police forces and partners on this scale has never been seen before and I am delighted to say that it has been a huge success in terms of the savings made and how well the organisations have worked together.

"The success of this group builds on the achievements of a large scale vehicle procurement project led by West Yorkshire Police earlier in the year. While cost is clearly a driving factor, the most important aspect is that these vehicles need to be the safest ones available for our staff and the public."

"We are delighted to supply the Police with this huge order," said Rory Harvey, Vauxhall's Chairman and Managing Director. "Efficiency is a top priority for all Police forces and the investment made in these Vauxhalls will mean officers spend more time preventing crime."

News, Crossover

Precautionary recall for Porsche Macan S and Turbo

Porsche is conducting an examination of 1,198 UK models of the Macan S and Macan Turbo.

The precautionary recall, some 58,881 models worldwide, comes as a possible leak in the low-pressure fuel line inside the engine compartment were discovered. The line will be replaced in the workshop - a purely as a precautionary measure. Only petrol engines are affected.

The problem was identified after a precise examination of complaints and then 'immediately rectified' in ongoing production, says Porsche. Owners of the vehicles will be contacted directly by their local dealership with workshop appointments to be arranged as quickly as possible.

The work will take roughly one hour and will be carried out free of charge.

News, Hatchback

Citroen C4 Cactus Chauffeurs at Q Awards

Citroen continued its sponsorship of the Q Awards by providing a fleet of C4 Cactus models to chauffeur the stars to and from.

The Q Awards in Association With Absolute Radio took place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London Monday 19 October and was Citroen's fourth year in a row as Official Car Supplier. The french manufacture also supported the Q Best Solo Artist award, which was won by Ed Sheeran.

Celebrity guests and musicians including Bernard Sumner of New Order, Gary Numan, La Roux, Foxes, and Kim Wilde arrived at the ceremony in a fleet of C4 Cactus cars. Music legends Tom Jones and Noel Gallagher were also in attendance, along with global superstar Mark Ronson, who received the Q Hero Award.

Andrew Didlick, Director, Communications, Events and Brand Partnerships at Peugeot Citroen Automobiles UK, commented, "This year's Q Awards showed that the British music industry is really thriving, and we're proud to have presented the award for Q Best Solo Artist. The Citroen C4 Cactus is designed to make people feel good and what better way to express that than by supporting one of the most prestigious award ceremonies in the UK rock music scene as Official Car Supplier."


Skoda is UK's most dependable car brand

Skoda has been named as the UK's most dependable brand in a new JD Power study.

The inaugural 2015 UK Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) asked owners to report problems with their new cars - from serious breakdowns to troublesome in-car entertainment issues. Once analysed, the results gave Skoda a clear victory, with the Czech carmaker comprehensively outscoring even the luxury brands.

The study, which focused on new cars registered between April 2012 and March 2014, used owner data to generate an overall dependability score for each brand. Skoda's score of 77 was the lowest in the entire survey, with the Industry Average for 2015 recorded as 114. 

Every Skoda in the survey performed better than the industry average, with the Fabia ranked as the third most dependable car in the Small Car category. 

Following the JD Power report findings, UK Consumer organisation Which? has also named Skoda as a firm favourite with owners. The organisation's 2015-2016 Car Guide named the Superb and the Yeti as the most satisfying cars to own in the estate and SUV classes, achieving owner satisfaction ratings of 96 per cent and 93 per cent respectively.

Crossover, Diesel, News

All-new Honda HR-V lands in the UK

The first shipment of Honda's all-new HR-V crossover has arrived in the UK at Bristol docks.

Due into dealerships at the end of the month, Honda says the new HR-V has already generated almost 350 orders despite customers not having driven, let alone even seen the car in the metal.

It is available at launch with a choice of 120 PS 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel or 130 PS 1.5 litre i-VTEC petrol engines, both part of Honda's Earth Dreams Technology series.

Philip Crossman, Managing Director at Honda UK, commented: "The HR-V is back.  These are some fantastic pictures of the new HR-V
being driven off the boat having arrived from Mexico and it is only a matter of weeks before we start seeing the car out on the road."

With pricing starting at £17,995 for the entry-level S grade petrol model, the new HR-V tops out at £24,945 for the flagship EX diesel.

Sports Car, News

Caterham continues UK expansion with new dealers

Caterham has appointed two new dealers - one in the north and one in the south - as it continues its UK expansion.

Oakmere Motor Group in Cheshire and Williams Automobiles near Bristol have been signed up by the brand to sell its full range of lightweight sportscars, with demonstrator cars already in place at both dealerships.

Both businesses are already well-versed in the selling, servicing and maintenance of used Caterham Sevens but will now stock the recently-extended range of new cars, from Seven 160 to Seven 620R.

Caterham says the company has steadily been growing its sales network both in the UK and internationally in the last few years with more UK dealers expected to be added in the coming months.

Caterham's Chief Commercial Officer, David Ridley, said: "Last year was a record year for Caterham in terms of export sales as demand increased for our products. But, while we are intent on growing our business globally, we have not forgotten our roots and the expansion of the UK network is a reflection of the importance we place on our customers here at home."

Oakmere Motor Group is a family-owned and run business based in Northwich, near Oulton Park race track. For several years, it was one of the largest TVR dealerships in the country and has an excellent understanding of hand-built British sportscars.

Managing director, Jonathan Jarratt, said: "I am passionate about Caterham, having personally owned a number of them over the years and I know our staff share my passion. We have sold and maintained many Caterhams over the years and are therefore no strangers to keeping them in tip top shape. We are planning a launch event very soon but, in the meantime, we would love to see as many Caterham owners and enthusiasts at our dealership as possible and would be delighted to give them the guided tour; the kettle is always on."

Williams Automobiles, based in Chipping Sodbury near Bristol, is one of the UK's oldest Lotus and Morgan dealerships, having been established by the Williams family in 1911. Like Oakmere, the business is well-versed in servicing and dealing in second-hand Sevens and is heavily involved in domestic motorsport activities.

Business owner and dealer principal, Henry Williams, said: "Caterham has always been a brand I have been interested in. It has an exciting product line-up and there is nothing really close to it elsewhere in the market."


Budget signals road tax rise

The Chancellor has announced a new vehicle excise duty (VED) banding system for cars registered on or after 1 April 2017, as part of the 2015 budget.

The road tax system will be revised with a flat rate of £140 for most cars, except in the first year when tax will remain linked to the CO2 emissions that cars produce. Electric cars won't pay any road tax at all and the most expensive cars will pay more.

Existing cars won't be affected - no one will pay more for a car that they already own. The money brought in from road tax in England will be spent on England's roads from 2020. Osborne said: " I will return this tax to the use for which it was originally intended. I am creating a new Roads Fund. From the end of this decade, every single penny raised in Vehicle Excise Duty in England will go into that Fund to pay for the sustained investment our roads so badly need" adding: "Tax paid on people's cars will be used to improve the roads they drive on."

Cars, including zero-emission cars, with a list price above £40,000 will be subject to a £310-per-year supplement for the first five years in which the standard rate is paid.

Mike Hawes, The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) Chief Executive, said, "We recognise the current VED system needs to be reformed and highlighted this in a recent report. The Chancellor's Budget announcement on the regime came as a surprise and is of considerable concern. While we are pleased that zero-emission cars will, on the whole, remain exempt from VED, the new regime will disincentivise take up of low emission vehicles. New technologies such as plug-in hybrid, the fastest growing ultra low emission vehicle segment, will not benefit from long-term VED incentive, threatening the ability of the UK and the UK automotive sector to meet ever stricter CO2 targets.

"The introduction of a surcharge on premium cars also risks undermining growth in UK manufacturing and exports. British-built premium cars are in increasing demand at home and globally, and the industry helps to support almost 800,000 jobs in the UK. Levelling a punitive tax on these vehicles will almost certainly impact domestic demand."

Osborne also confirmed a further freeze on fuel duty saying "I can also confirm that there will be no changes to the plans for fuel duty I set out in March - fuel duty will remain frozen this year."

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has given a cautious welcome to the Summer Budget and the freeze on fuel duty and changes to the MOT test.

Commenting on the announcement, BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney said: "Motorists and businesses will benefit from this continued freeze, but there is now a compelling case for the government to go one-step further and provide a real stimulus to the UK economy by cutting fuel duty."

Commenting on the new VED bands from 2017, Keaney added: "Although we welcome the commitment to maintain current VED revenues and invest the income on roads in the future, we are concerned that the existence of two different VED bandings from 2017 could create extra complexity and cost for the fleet market," said Keaney.

"The new 2017 bandings also represent a policy shift away from the tax being based solely on tailpipe emissions, with vehicles costing more than £40,000 facing an extra annual £310 surcharge for the first five years. Many ultra-low emission hybrid vehicles could fall into this category, which might put prospective customers off." 

Elsewhere, the BVRLA says it looks forward to the government's planned consultation on pushing the first car MOT back to four years, but believes that a wider discussion on vehicle testing is needed.

"Cars are more reliable than ever, but extending the first MOT deadline could pose safety issues for cars that are doing high mileages and aren't serviced regularly. There could be a case for developing a time and mileage-based criteria for the first MOT," said Keaney.

"Vans are the fastest growing sector of the road transport sector and concerns over their first-MOT pass rate mean that the government did the right thing in excluding them from this proposal."

The Freight Transport Association says common sense has prevailed with the announcement of a freeze on fuel duty, but that it will continue to campaign for cuts on behalf of its members. James Hookham, FTA's Deputy Chief Executive, said: "The Chancellor has listened to the voice of industry by keeping fuel duty at current levels, which is to be welcomed. However, the Government has emphasised that its primary objective is to protect the UK economy. We believe that reducing fuel duty would make a huge contribution to this objective and we will continue to campaign with FairFuelUK for a 3 pence per litre cut in order to stimulate economic growth."