FEW PEOPLE who drive a vehicle around the Bradford district will have been surprised by the figures, revealed in the Telegraph & Argus, showing that average traffic speeds are slowing and jams are getting worse.

Bradford has – and has had – one of the fastest-growing populations in the country and that inevitably means the number of cars on our roads is growing faster than much of the rest of the country as well.

What is hasn’t had is a matching surge in job creation which means that more people are travelling in and out of the district to find work in other parts of West and North Yorkshire.

Alongside that, the district’s school achievement levels have struggled to improve which has led to more and more people seeking to get their children placed at “better” schools away from their own immediate area which, in turn, has contributed massively to the number of journeys taking place at peak commuting times.

Over-crowded trains with ageing rolling stock have deterred many from using public transport and attempts to entice people onto buses and bikes by spending millions on under-used bus and bike lanes has simply served to funnel the growing number of private vehicles into narrower channels, thereby extending congestion.

And then there is the not-insignificant matter of commercial transport. Bradford, as we proudly shout to the rest of world, is a “producer city” with a higher level of manufacturing than most other large cities and certainly well above the national average.

To manufacture something, you have to bring in the parts or raw materials and, once you’ve produced your creation, you must ship it out again to the people who want to finish it, incorporate it, sell it or buy it. At whatever stage you are in that process, that means lorries. And more lorries.

Bradford has a great deal to offer to visitors – from museums to food to heritage to fantastic nearby scenery – and we, rightly, work hard to encourage more tourists to our district. Most of them come by car.

And then there is our obsession with building new houses in “desirable” green areas like the Aire Valley. With the shortage of jobs, those properties become targets for commuters to places like Leeds where the high price of housing forces people to look further afield for their dream executive home, thereby generating more traffic from those who don’t want to risk over-crowded trains or simply need their vehicles to get around for their job.

Where we do have job growth is in the above-average level of new business start-ups, many of which are in service industries which require the use of vans and cars.

What all that adds up to is a perfect storm which is steadily reducing the district to a state of permanent gridlock.

The latest figures reveal Bradford’s slowest road as the A657 – New Line, Leeds Road and Saltaire Road, through Shipley, Idle and Greengates – where the morning rush hour produces an average traffic speed of 10.2 miles an hour.

In the relatively near future, those queues will be exacerbated by the traffic from hundreds upon hundreds of new homes from places such as Micklethwaite, Menston, Baildon, Keighley, Skipton and beyond.

So, the “congestion-busting” plan being drawn up by transport chiefs across West Yorkshire – which aims to harness new technology to alter traffic-light priorities and link with sat-nav companies to re-route cars around congested routes – all sounds a little like fiddling while Rome burns.

Of course, every little helps. But in the grand scale of this impending disaster for our region it will create a tiny ripple in a pond the size of the Pacific Ocean.

The fact is, everybody but everybody is avoiding the issue. The most telling figure in yesterday’s report was that West Yorkshire’s 410 miles of A-roads make up just seven per cent of the road network but they carry 60 per cent – yes, SIXTY per cent – of all vehicles.

There is only one answer: we need more and better roads.

We have wasted decades ringing our hands in anguish about the effects of pollution on the planet while the problem has been getting worse and worse. Those who tell you that more roads mean more vehicles are deliberately ignoring the fact that the vehicles are already there.

Free-flowing traffic creates massively less pollution than traffic jams. More cars doing an average of 30 mph will be less polluting than fewer cars travelling at 10 mph or, as we’re heading for right now, even lower speeds.

And before you accuse me of indulging in a Jeremy Clarkson-style rant, let me say I’d be more than happy if all those cars were eventually running on electric power.

Since man tamed his first horse, personal transport has been an essential way of life and that will not change anytime soon.

The suggestion by Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, who leads on transport matters at Bradford Council, that tackling congestion was a case of both easing “choke points” and getting a significant number of people to move from “single-occupancy car use to smarter travel choices,” is well-meaning but idealistic and unrealistic.

What really needs to happen is that all the regions of Yorkshire need to band together with a single voice and play the Government at its own game.

Yes, we’ll have a Yorkshire mayor; yes, we’ll take on new powers and create a true Northern Powerhouse but, in return, the Government must abandon Crossrail 2 (even if it creates problems for HS2) and shift its obsession with London’s growth to the north of England, creating billions of pounds worth of investment in roads and other infrastructure and taking the country’s economic eggs out of its single South-Eastern basket.

It will be far better for the whole of the country in so many ways if the north grows strongly and London steadies. The alternative – an over-heated South-east and a stagnant, rotting North – doesn’t bear thinking about.

It’s time to get Yorkshire moving.