Publiceret: 07.12.2017Af Niels Brandt Petersen mail
Red lights as far as the eye can see. We’re on a Danish motorway during rush hour, and traffic is inching along.
The scenario is more and more common for cars and lorries, meaning that commuters and companies must wait for longer on the roads. And it costs society dearly.
New calculations from the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) show that the total socioeconomic costs caused by traffic delays in 2017 amount to DKK 20 billion.
Michael Svane, director of the Danish Transport Federation, finds the trend worrying.
”The transport system is jamming up, and companies and employees waste time stuck in traffic,” he says.
“We are increasingly hearing from companies that they are challenged by congested roads that make it difficult for employees and products to arrive.” Michael Svane, Director
See also: New study: Traffic poses challenge to production
Michael Svane emphasises that the calculations are an estimate based on a study that COWI did for the Danish Ministry of Transport in 2010. In the COWI study, traffic delays in the capital region cost society DKK 8.5 billion in 2010.
There is dense traffic many places in the capital region, but commuters are also stuck in traffic in other parts of the country.
In DI’s estimate, it is assumed that traffic in the capital region amounts to two-thirds of total delays nationally.
Figures from the Danish Road Directory this year also show that rush hour traffic has increased to and from the larger cities.
”The increased traffic with greater pressure on the road network and more delays is a challenge we cannot hide from, and which costs society a lot of money” says Michael Svane.
In DI’s Local Business Climate Survey from 2017, over half of companies respond that traffic-related issues have become worse over the past five years.
It is particularly around the larger cities that Danish companies are most challenged by increased congestion. In Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen, more than three out of four companies respond that traffic has become worse.
Recently, the company DKI Logistics stated that traffic jams cost the Horsens-based company DKK 3 million annually.
“We are increasingly hearing from companies that they are challenged by congested roads that make it difficult for employees and goods to arrive on schedule,” says Michael Svane.
He points out that the situation makes it more difficult for Danish companies to obtain employees and is also problematic when it comes to delivering goods.
“Things are going forward these years for the Danish economy. But unfortunately, it impedes growth when traffic gets worse, because both commuters and companies have to set aside extra time for transport,” says Michael Svane.
Andreas Egense, department manager at the Danish Road Directorate’s analysis unit calls DI’s calculations of social costs relevant.
“It’s difficult to say whether DI’s calculations are entirely correct. But there is no doubt that congestion has become worse, and it is highly interesting and valuable to look at the overall costs to society,” he says.
He points out that it is necessary to know more about e.g. traffic conditions on all roads in order to do a precise calculation. But we do not have all the relevant data.
“There are a lot of factors that affect the total calculation when it comes to congestion. But it is possible to give an estimate based on previous calculations,” says Andreas Egense.
The Danish Road Directorate continuously works to improve the conditions for the country’s drivers and public transport system. Indeed, in recent years, large sums have been invested in Danish roads, including a 166-kilometre new motorway in the course of the past ten years and better use of existing roads.
But an everyday with more time spent in traffic has come to stay, says Andreas Egense.
“We probably have to get used to congestion as something that has come to stay. Unfortunately, the trend is not headed in the direction of less congestion, so our task is about limiting congestion as much as possible, and to do it in a way where we think carefully and carry out proper socioeconomic analyses, so that we achieve greatest capacity for our money,” he says.
It costs society dearly when we waste time in traffic, since it affects productivity:
When accidents and other events result in employees and goods not arriving on schedule, it can have consequences for production. In the calculations, it is presumed that the consequences for production etc. mean that the socioeconomic costs will be approx. 20 per cent higher than they would have been otherwise.
The increased traffic with greater pressure on the road network and more delays is a challenge we cannot hide from, and which costs society a lot of money.