Rush-hour traffic remained high across England today as the new national lockdown began, just hours after extraordinary gridlock last night as motorists headed for last-minute shopping and leisure trips.

Congestion in London was at 38 per cent from 7am-8am and 56 per cent at 8am-9am today, with data from location technology firm TomTom also revealing there were 536 jams across 255 miles of roads in the capital.

The congestion level today was significantly up from the roughly 28 per cent observed across both times last week, although much of that will have been thanks to the lack of a school run due to the half-term holidays.

But 7am-8am traffic today was down from levels recorded earlier this week of 43 per cent on Monday, 52 per cent on Tuesday and 47 per cent yesterday – and down from a 52 per cent average at the same time last year. 

The congestion level is the extra travel time drivers experience on average compared to baseline uncongested conditions – so a 38 per cent level means a 30-minute trip will take 38 per cent more time than with no traffic.  

Heavy commuter traffic battles through thick fog this morning on the A40 at Perivale in West London, heading into the capital

Crowds of commuters at London Bridge Underground station on the Jubilee line platform during rush hour this morning

Commuters sit close to each other while others stand on a Jubilee line train in London today as the new lockdown begins

Congestion in London was at 38 per cent between 7am and 8am this morning, according to location technology firm TomTom

It comes after astonishing traffic was seen yesterday, with queues at levels normally seen in the days before Christmas. There were 1,100 miles of jams in London alone at 6pm and the M25 was brought to a near-standstill. 

Congestion was worse than normal in 16 out of 24 cities and towns – and, as drivers reported colossal tailbacks, the RAC said breakdown reports were up 15 per cent compared to normal.

The RAC, which said the increased breakdowns were ‘a sign that the roads are much, much busier’, added that the spike yesterday was caused by families heading for pre-lockdown shopping trips and leisure outings.

The rush to stock up saw huge queues outside shops and beer being sold for just 99p a pint before it goes off. Shoppers filled their trolleys before four weeks of having to stay at home and make only essential journeys.  

Commuters at Canning Town Underground station in East London this morning on the first day of the second lockdown

Commuters travel on the Jubilee line in London this morning on the first day of the second national lockdown for England

People standing on an escalator and walking down steps at London Bridge train station during rush hour this morning

Traffic on the M60 heading into Manchester this morning as the second national lockdown comes into force

Today, pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops in England have once again been forced to close and members of the public were ordered to stay at home for the next four weeks in a bid to reverse the spread of Covid-19. 

It comes amid reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to confirm this morning that the 80 per cent furlough scheme will continue for businesses that have been shut due to restrictions beyond this lockdown period.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has been warned by a group of northern Conservative MPs that they do not want their constituencies ‘locked into lockdown’ indefinitely, as dissent appears to be growing within the party.

Jake Berry, chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory backbenchers, has called for more clarity from Boris Johnson for a roadmap out of the measures for a second time in little more than a week. 

Traffic on the M25 around Greater London this morning as congestion levels remain high in the capital despite the lockdown

Traffic shortly before 8am on The Highway in East London today at the start of a four week national lockdown for England

Commuters at London Waterloo train station at 8.13am today during the morning rush hour at the start of the new lockdown

Commuters at Leeds train station at 8.31am this morning at the start of a four week national lockdown for England

Traffic on the M25 this morning as people continue to commute to work despite the second national lockdown beginning

Commuters at London Waterloo station at 8.10am in the morning rush hour at the start of a four-week national lockdown

Last evening, MPs voted by 516 to 38 – a Government majority of 478 – for the new rules, which are due to expire on December 2. But 32 Tory MPs defied the whips to vote against, with two more acting as tellers for the noes.

The new restrictions were then cleared through Parliament after they were approved by the House of Lords. 

The lockdown comes with a number of exceptions, including pupils continuing to go to school, limitless outdoor exercise and ‘safe visiting’ for care home residents and their families.

Under new Government guidelines, care home visitors will be encouraged to meet their loved ones through a window or in an outside setting, following concerns about the emotional damage to residents and their families.

Customers enter the bakery and coffee shop Ole & Steen on High Street Kensington in West London this morning

A customer walks into a Pret coffee shop inside the High Street Kensington shopping arcade in West London today

Leon is open for customers this morning in Kensington, West London, although they are not allowed to sit inside

Belgian chocolate company Leonidas is open for takeaway only in the High Street Kensington shopping arcade this morning

A customer leaves the Oree patisserie branch on High Street Kensington in West London this morning

But the guidance, which was issued less than 12 hours before new lockdown measures came into force, was criticised and dismissed as ‘warm words’ by care experts.

Also from today, all students and teachers in secondary schools and colleges in England will be required to wear face coverings when moving around the premises. 

People in Wales will be able to return to pubs and restaurants and schools are set to reopen when the nation’s two-and-a-half week ‘firebreak’ ends next week.

A regional tiered approach to restrictions is in force across Scotland, while in Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants are still shuttered after being closed for four weeks starting on October 16. 

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