NOW that Bournemouth has officially become the UK's third most congested place - worse than Manchester, Leicester and Bristol, and as bad as the American metropolis of San Francisco, what can be done to fix the problem?

The gridlock, measured by the SatNav company TomTom, and described by town dwellers as 'a nightmare' places Bournemouth at number 56 in the world's most congested places.Only London and Edinburgh have worse congestion in the UK.

The research also shows that the five most gridlocked roads in Bournemouth were Christchurch Road, Poole Road, Bath Road, Saint Paul's Road and Charminster Road.

New BCP Council portfolio holder, Andy Hadley admitted the council had a lot to do. "We’ve got to work with the population and convince them that the car isn't the answer," he said. "If people want to queue up and offer to have their house demolished to make new roads then that’s lovely, but I don’t’ think it’s going to happen."

He said the issue for him was 'moving people not vehicles'.

"The reason people don’t ditch their car is because is the alternatives aren't very good and that’s something we haven’t done, we are still in the mindset of car first."

He said the council had 'failed to provide a space for bicycles' but the new Boris-style Beryl bikes were coming this month.

He also believes the frequency of buses is an issue, along with the vehicles themselves.

"There are 180 buses an hour along Old Christchurch Road but they are all nearly empty, it's ridiculous," he said. "Potentially we’ve got the wrong sort of transport in place at the moment We need to think how we get people about more reliably."

Beales' CEO Tony Brown has plenty of ideas to improve transport and congestion in the town - many of them culled from visits and trips he's made to other UK cities and abroad.

"You can't disagree with the TomTom report," he said. "Traversing the conurbation here is probably the worst I've ever encountered and I worked in London for eight years."

He said that whilst it was not the fault of any particular council 'the roads here aren't built for the traffic, we have no bus lanes or commuter lanes and the urban sprawl doesn't allow us to put in bus lanes and wider pavements and things like that.'

"I'm a big believer in getting people into the town centre and not screwing up all the car-parking in town," he said. "There are also things to do from a commuter point of view, promoting and rewarding car share; just putting a sign up saying it’s more efficient doesn’t work."

He'd like to see a network allowing larger electric scooters to be able to use part of the prom as an arterial route, as well as better park and ride with, potentially, a fleet of small, electric tram-style buses travelling down Old Christchurch Road at ten-minute intervals."

TomTom creates its index after looking at extra travel times. According to the SatNav company, travel times in Bournemouth are 34 per cent longer than should be expected - which puts it on a par with San Francisco.

Ralf-Peter Schaefer, TomTom’s VP of Traffic information, said: “Globally, traffic congestion is rising. That’s both good, and bad, news. It’s good because it indicates a strong global economy, but the flip side is drivers wasting time sitting in traffic, not to mention the huge environmental impact.”

Heiko Schilling, Head of Navigation at TomTom, said: “Bournemouth has leapfrogged Brighton to become the most congested city in the south of England, with local residents describing the city’s gridlock as a ‘nightmare’. But it’s not all bad news, since the growth in congestion is likely linked to the city’s booming economy, which is ranked as one of the top ten in the country.”

He added: “We’re working towards a future where vehicles are electric, shared and autonomous so that our future really is free of congestion and emissions. We have the technology to make this future happen – but it takes a collaborative effort. From road authorities, to governments; car makers to car drivers, we all have a part to play.”

The news will come as no surprise to people who live or work in Bournemouth who have endured months of traffic misery in the conurbation.

The on-going A338 Spur Road improvement works at Blackwater Junction have caused daily traffic jams of up to half an hour coming into the town and now work is set to continue on the northbound section up to Christmas.

However, the BCP Council has launched a number of traffic-busting schemes, including the introduction of Beryl Bikes, similar to the Boris bikes of London, and other solutions have been suggested, including water-buses along the coast, and a congestion charge for the town.