Where does the M25 traffic go? New research shows where vehicles are heading on London ring road

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

Where does the traffic go on the M25? One of the capital’s great road myths has finally been put to bed thanks to a new report detailing the movements of vehicles using the iconic motorway circling the capital.

The journey analysis, conducted by consultancy firm Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, and global location technology firm, TomTom, studied more than 4.4 million anonymous car and taxi trip movements from GPS device traces during weekdays (Monday-Friday) in November 2019. These traces were captured from in-dashboard, on-dashboard and mobile navigation technologies.

The analysis found that only a small proportion (14%) of car and taxi trips on the M25 bypass London completely and are made by people travelling from one part of the country to another.

The vast majority (74%) of car and taxi trips that includes one of the longest and busiest ring roads in the world actually start or end in London.

The remaining proportion (12%) of car and van trips are so-called intra-London movements, meaning the journeys both start and end in the capital but use the 117-mile-long orbital motorway as part of the route.

The analysis revealed that of the strategic routes “feeding” the M25, the M1 was the most significant, followed by the M4, M3, M40 and A2.

Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “This unique research addresses one of the great mysteries of life: where are all those cars on the M25 actually going? Now we know, and most of them are not trying to avoid the capital.

“This might come as a surprise to the many of us who think of the M25 as a way of avoiding London rather than travelling in, out or through it.

“This data should be of keen interest to those responsible for the management of the M25 and of the many local roads that connect with it.

“A possible follow up to this important work could be a look at where freight journeys on the M25 are starting and ending.”

Sean Flynn of Atkins said: “This research, underpinned by the robust and easy-to-use origin destination tool of TomTom, was a good opportunity for Atkins to demonstrate our traffic data analytics capabilities. We believe the initial outcomes will be of interest to a number of our customers and that M25 movements merit further investigation.”

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