Looking for an open road? Time to head west!

New figures have revealed what any long-suffering commuter has known for years – the West Midlands has among the least areas of open road in the country.

Congestion is a way of life in the Black Country, where open road is hard to come by
Congestion is a way of life in the Black Country, where open road is hard to come by

Data from the Department for Transport has worked out how many metres of open road there are per had of population in each local authority area.

Top of the list is Mid Wales, where rolling hills and country roads offer motorists a free run. According to the figures, Powys has 40.5 metres of road per person.

That figure compares to just 2.3 in Birmingham, between three and four in the Black Country areas and 7.2 in both Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

The 132,400 inhabitants of Powys share nearly 5.4 million metres of road, covering an area well known to people from the West Midlands travelling to Snowdonia or the North Wales coast.

The roads of Mid Wales are currently even quieter than normal due to Wales being in a coronavirus lockdown, preventing the English from crossing the border.

Powys beats off the most remote areas of Scotland for open roads.

Highland is the area with the second most length of road per person, followed by Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, and Ceredigion. They all have more than 30 metres.

AA president Edmund King said: “This analysis shows why the producers of car programmes such as Top Gear or The Grand Tour, and car reviewers from motoring magazines, seek out the beautiful and quiet roads of Mid and North Wales or the Highlands and islands of Scotland.

“Drivers are often more likely to come across sheep than other vehicles on these stunning roads as the metres of road per population are at the highest.”

North Wales was praised for having “some of the best driving roads in Europe” by Top Gear host Chris Harris in the latest episode of the BBC One show. “It’s a playground for cars,” he added.

The roads of Wales became congested over the summer as people crossed the border looking for a staycation break.

Congestion is a way of life in the Black Country, where open road is hard to come by

It led to some islolated routes in Snowdonia being clogged with parked cars, with police resorting to issuing fines and towing some cars away. as the national park struggled to cope.

Herefordshire is the highest-ranked English entry on the list with 17.4 metres, down from 18.3 metres in 2009.

Around 90 per cent of local authority areas have seen a reduction in road length per person over the past decade.

This is because populations have increased at 10 times the rate of road building.

The figures are based on road lengths and populations recorded in 2019 in local authority areas in mainland Britain.

It excludes authorities consisting only of islands, such as the Scottish areas of Eilean Siar (47.8 metres per person), Orkney Islands (47.6 metres per person) and Shetland Islands (45.2 metres per person).

The analysis does not include the impact of people driving in areas they do not live in, such as commuters, leisure visitors and delivery drivers.

The 28 areas with the lowest amount of road per person are in London.

This is led by Tower Hamlets, which is the only location with less than one metre.

Data from traffic information supplier Inrix shows that London is the eighth most congested city in the world, with drivers spending an average of 149 hours stuck in traffic last year.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “For most of us the joys of a traffic-free, open road are a far cry from our everyday driving experience, though these figures show there are still places where driving might be more of a pleasure than a chore.”

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