School run drives AM rush hour traffic

[11 September] This week, driving activity remains well above baseline, at 36%, following a peak of 59% on Friday 4th September, with the school run driving much of the growth. While activity has dropped slightly (-2% on the previous week), we are still seeing very significant road traffic volumes.

TomTom traffic information for Belfast shows the impact returning school traffic had, with congestion levels in the mornings significantly higher than recent weeks. In addition, weekend traffic has largely returned to normal, as people shop and socialise more frequently. Again, Friday 4th shows a large spike in congestion, which was due to a road traffic incident in Belfast. The second chart shows the gradual building of congestion throughout the year to date. Apple mobility data for Belfast paints a similar picture, with increases across pedestrian, vehicular and public transit types.

Monday 31st August was a bank holiday for many in NI, and despite low temperatures parks and beaches lured many people, with activity at 47% above the baseline. Footfall in retail and recreation areas also peaked on the holiday, at 14% above the pre-covid norm, however the return to school and work balanced this and the rolling average shows a drop of 2% from the week prior, to 89%. Grocery and pharmacy locations were quietest at the beginning of the week, however the rolling average ended at 94% for the week, growth of 4% YoY.

Across the UK, high streets remain quieter than normal, however many shoppers are visiting out of town retail parks and shops closer to home, as remote working continues. Across the UK, analysis from Springboard showed footfall at retail parks was at 90% of the level seen at the same time last year, while shopping centres and high streets remained a little below 75%. It’s not a completely negative story for all retailers however, with the Co-op recently announcing it would open 50 new stores and employ 1,000 people. This demonstrates that while online shopping is still extremely popular, physical convenience stores are still essential.

Workplace footfall was also impacted by the bank holiday, with footfall at 41% of the norm, however over the course of the week, the figure improved to 65%. Home working is still preferred by many, with the Office of National Statistics reporting 36% of the UK workforce are working remotely.