A study by Highways England shows that motorway commuters could speed up their journeys by up to 10 miles per hour by starting and finishing work one hour later than peak times, according to new research.
The research was carried out on a nine-mile-stretch of the M62 which links the M6 near Warrington to the M60 near Manchester. The route is used by 120,000 drivers every day and construction work is currently taking place to upgrade it to a smart motorway, increasing its capacity by a third.
Commuters can generally achieve 36 miles per hour between 5pm and 6pm when travelling on this short section of motorway on their way home from work.
The study has found that drivers who set off for work after 9am are likely to get there much more quickly than those travelling during the two hours after 7am.
Drivers using this stretch of the M62 who wait until 6pm before leaving the office are also likely to travel 10 miles per hour faster than those leaving at 5pm, or 20 miles per hour faster if they wait until 7pm – cutting journey times by around a third.
Overall, the research found that commuters travelling 20 miles each way and working the traditional 9am to 5pm day could be spending almost an hour extra on the road every week, compared to those working from 10am to 6pm.
Mike Bull, Highways England’s smart motorways programme manager for the North, said: "We all know that our roads are at their busiest during the morning and evening commute but it’s surprising that shifting our working days by just one hour could have such a significant impact on journey times.
"Many people won’t have a choice about the hours they work but if some are able to start and finish work an hour later then it could benefit everyone – and save some drivers around an hour each week."