Growth in internet shopping has caused number of vans on UK roads to almost double in 20 years

Greener Journeys
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  • Government figures show a 75% increase in the number of vans on UK roads
  • Number of vans has increased from 2.2 million to 3.9 million in 20 years
  • Greener Journeys warns that increased traffic will worsen congestion and pollution

The number of vans on UK roads has almost doubled in a decade, Government figures reveal today.

The statistics show that road traffic reached a record high last year, after falling for three consecutive years between 2007 and 2010 and remaining stable until 2017.

The rise is partly due to the growth in internet shopping and home deliveries which has caused the number of licensed vans on UK roads to increase by 75% between 1997 and 2017, from 2.2 million to 3.9 million.

In 2017, 77% of adults shopped online at least once during 2017, compared to 53% in 2008.

Last year road traffic reach 327.1 billion vehicle miles. Car traffic continued to rise, from 251.6 billion in 2016 to 254.4 billion vehicle miles last year.

Responding to these figures, Greener Journeys, the sustainable transport group, warned that congestion and pollution would rise as people abandon public transport in favour of their cars.

Traffic congestion not only clogs our streets but also harms the air we breathe. In nose to tail traffic harmful NOx emissions increase fourfold. It is also putting the future of the bus sector at risk, as  journey times rise and passengers are forced to seek alternative modes of transport.

Previous Greener Journeys research shows that traffic speeds in some cities have been reduced to walking pace amid growth in traffic.

Today’s figures follow alarming reports about buses in crisis, with local councils cutting more than 3,000 bus routes over the past eight years.

The research shows that across England and Wales there has been a 45% reduction in funding for buses services since 2010, with 3,347 bus services reduced or withdrawn. In the last year alone 301 services have been reduced or withdrawn.

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, said:

“These figures highlight the major growth in van and car traffic which is causing a congestion crisis across the UK. Congestion is clogging our streets, damaging the air we breathe and threatening the future of the bus sector.

As we grapple with congestion and rising pollution, buses need to be part of the solution.  A double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road and real-world testing on buses show that a modern diesel bus has fewer emissions overall than a modern diesel car despite having 15 to 20 times the carrying capacity.

“We need a long-term investment strategy for bus. We have long-term investment strategies for road, rail, walking and cycling, but nothing for bus. This is a serious omission. More people commute to work by bus than all other forms of public transport combined, and those bus commuters generate £64 billion in goods and services. it’s time the Government woke up to this reality and started giving the bus sector the attention and investment it deserves.”




For further information 

Greener Journeys Press Office or +44 (0)20 3128 8555


About Greener Journeys

Greener Journeys is a campaign dedicated to encouraging people to make more sustainable travel choices. It is a coalition of the UK’s leading public transport organizations, user groups and supporters. It aims to reduce CO2 emissions from transport by encouraging people to switch some of their car journeys to bus or coach instead. Switching from car to bus for just one journey a month would mean one billion fewer car journeys on our roads and would save 2 million tonnes of CO2 every year. For more information visit

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