Fears have been voiced that the traffic-choked motorway system in and around Leeds could put the brakes on the local economy.
Two of West Yorkshire’s main road routes – the M621 and the M606 – are among the four slowest motorways in the UK, new research has revealed.
The average speed for drivers on Leeds’s M621 was just 26.75mph during the first six months of this year.
Motorists on the M606 – which runs between Cleckheaton and Bradford – fared even worse, with their average speed of 24.62mph being the country’s lowest.
Reacting to the findings, Phil Snowden, regional operations manager (northern) for the Road Haulage Association, said: “This report is sadly not a surprise.
“Congestion is getting worse, it requires significant investment across the network to deal with the problems our members see every day.
“It is not just the motorways that need attention – other major roads need improvement so that the strain on the motorway system is eased.”
Mike Cartwright, policy and representation executive at the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The slow average speeds of some of our local motorways are a concern to business and are certainly a drag-factor on the economy.
“Businesses need to move goods around quickly and meet with clients and so we need a good, reliable road network that caters for this.”
Mr Cartwright said “volume of traffic” was the main problem on the M621, which he described as one of Leeds’s “key arteries”.
He also pointed out, however, that the figure for the M606 is likely to have been skewed as the route runs for just three miles.
“You hardly get time to build up speed before you need to slow down again,” said Mr Cartwright. The motorway research has been conducted by vehicle tracking firm RAM Tracking. Its data was collected using software fitted in commercial vehicles across the country from January 1 to June 30.
Other motorways identified as congestion blackspots included the M32 in South Gloucestershire and the M9 in Scotland.
The average speeds for the M62 and M1 were 39.77mph and 43.82mph respectively.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are making the most extensive improvements to roads since the 1970s, investing a record £15bn to improve motorways and major A-roads, so we can keep our country moving and make journeys faster, better and more reliable for everyone.”
Schemes recently announced as part of that £15bn investment include upgrading the M62 to ‘smart motorway’ status between Brighouse and Rochdale.
Around 15 miles of the M62 south of Leeds and Bradford and a further six miles of the M1 between Denby Dale and Lofthouse have already been turned into smart motorways,
which use technology to ease congestion by varying speed limits.
Other schemes currently on the drawing board include the provision of a direct link from the M62 westbound to the M606 northbound.
Plans have also been announced for improved slip roads and signalisation at junction 45 of the M1 east of Leeds.
A West Yorkshire Combined Authority spokesman said: “These results highlight the delays faced by individuals and freight accessing two of West Yorkshire’s major centres from the M62 and illustrate why investment in better road and rail links across the Pennines will be a vital element of making the Northern Powerhouse a reality.
“They also highlight the importance of the Combined Authority’s plans to maximise economic growth and create up to 20,000 jobs across an HS2-ready city region through our £1bn, 10-year Transport Fund Programme of almost 30 schemes designed to connect businesses and people with opportunities.”