Denmark wastes 20 billion kroner on traffic delays: report

Traffic delays on Danish roads currently cost the country 20 billion kroner annually, show calculations from the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk industri, DI).

Denmark wastes 20 billion kroner on traffic delays: report
File photo: Jens Dresling/Polfoto/Ritzau

DI and Danish companies have called for more resources to be spent on better road networks and public transport, writes

Red lights as far as the eye can see – the scene on a Danish motorway during rush hour. The scenario is more and more common for cars and lorries, meaning that commuters and companies must wait for longer on the roads, at a significant cost to society.

New calculations from the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) show that the total socioeconomic costs caused by traffic delays in 2017 amount to 20 billion kroner (2.7 billion euros).

Michael Svane, director of the Danish Transport Federation (Dansk Industri Transport), finds the trend worrying.

”The transport system is jamming up, and companies and employees waste time stuck in traffic,” Svane said.

“We are increasingly hearing from companies that they are challenged by congested roads that make it difficult for employees and products to arrive,” he added.

The federation director emphasises that the calculations are an estimate based on a study that COWI did for the Danish Ministry of Transport in 2010. In the COWI study, traffic delays in the capital region cost society 8.5 billion kroner (1.1 billion euros) in 2010.

There is dense traffic many places in the capital region, but commuters are also stuck in traffic in other parts of the country.

DI’s estimate assumes that traffic in the capital region amounts to two-thirds of total delays nationally.

Figures from the Danish Road Directory this year also show that rush hour traffic has increased to and from the larger cities.

”The increased traffic with greater pressure on the road network and more delays is a challenge we cannot hide from, and which costs society a lot of money” Svane said.

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In a survey conducted by DI earlier this year, over half of companies respond that traffic-related issues have become worse over the past five years.

It is particularly around the larger cities that Danish companies are most challenged by increased congestion. In Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen, more than three out of four companies respond that traffic has become worse. 

Recently, the company DKI Logistics stated that traffic jams cost the Horsens-based firm three million kroner (400,000 euros) annually.

“We are increasingly hearing from companies that they are challenged by congested roads that make it difficult for employees and goods to arrive on schedule,” Svane said.

He points out that the situation makes it more difficult for Danish companies to obtain employees and is also problematic when it comes to delivering goods.

“Things are going forward these years for the Danish economy. But unfortunately, it impedes growth when traffic gets worse, because both commuters and companies have to set aside extra time for transport,” he said.

Andreas Egense, department manager at the Danish Road Directorate’s analysis unit, calls DI’s calculations of social costs relevant.

“It’s difficult to say whether DI’s calculations are entirely correct. But there is no doubt that congestion has become worse, and it is highly interesting and valuable to look at the overall costs to society,” Egense said.

He points out that it is necessary to know more about things like traffic conditions on all roads in order to do a precise calculation.

“There are a lot of factors that affect the total calculation when it comes to congestion. But it is possible to give an estimate based on previous calculations,” he said.

An everyday with more time spent in traffic has come to stay, Egense said.

“We probably have to get used to congestion as something that has come to stay. Unfortunately, the trend is not headed in the direction of less congestion, so our task is about limiting congestion as much as possible, and to do it in a way where we think carefully and carry out proper socioeconomic analyses, so that we achieve greatest capacity for our money,” he said. 

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