BOURNEMOUTH has been rated as one of the most congested cities in the UK, even with congestion falling by 23 per cent across the South of England.

Data collected by TomTom’s Traffic Index report showed that the Dorset town was positioned sixth nationally and only behind Brighton and Hove as the most jammed area in the south of the country.

Bournemouth has seen its congestion level fall by 20 per cent from 35 in 2019 to 28 last year, but continues to have some of the busiest roads in the South of England, which remains as the UK’s most congested region.

After a ‘normal’ start to 2020 – with congestion levels consistent with 2019 – traffic levels plunged in March and April as the first national lockdown was declared, only starting to recover in June and July.

However, subsequent lockdowns have not been as effective as the first. Congestion levels have risen steadily across the South since June, only levelling off in October and November as England’s regional tier system was introduced.

Stephanie Leonard, Head of Traffic Innovation and Policy at TomTom, said: “The South has long suffered from high levels of congestion, but 2020 was an unprecedented year for traffic.

“From lockdowns to closed borders, the movement of people halted very quickly. Rush hour, once the bane of drivers and traffic planners, disappeared almost overnight as office workers set up their home offices.

“Even while peak times have slowly returned to the rest of the country, they remain down in the South for the most part – likely owing to the success of remote working initiatives.”

Muted peak times may suggest more widespread remote working in the South of England compared to the rest of the country.

However, maintaining these improvements for drivers in the long term depends largely on government action and the cementing of wider social changes brought about by the pandemic – chiefly remote working – remaining permanent.

Mrs Leonard added: “However, we shouldn’t expect Southern roads to remain quiet forever. As Covid-19 vaccines continue to be created and industrialised, we may see traffic levels shoot up again – as people get back to work and back into old routines.

“Unless there’s continued change in driver behaviour, supported by policy makers and employers, we’re unlikely to see a permanent end to the rush hour.

“That’s why we need action from city planners, policy makers, employers and drivers to ensure flexible working hours, working from home, and a smart approach to using traffic data to determine the best travel times.”