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London’s Notorious Rush Hour

Posted: 3-04-2017
Updated: 18-04-2024

Research reveals that the average motorist driving through London’s notorious rush hour spends around 139 hours a year at a standstill due to gridlocked traffic. In fact, London ranks as the most congested city in Europe due to a combination of motorists driving to work in the town and others passing through to reach a destination on the other side. 


Rush hour in London refers to periods during the day when traffic congestion on roads and crowding on public transport are at their highest.  

During rush hours, the city’s transport networks, including the London Underground (Tube), buses, and roads, experience significant increases in usage, leading to longer travel times, crowded conditions, and, often, delays.  

The intensity of rush hour can vary across different parts of the city, with central London and key commuter routes experiencing the highest congestion levels. 


When does rush hour end in London?   

What time is the morning rush hour?  

There is no official time for rush hour, which lasts longer than one hour. Traffic starts building up from around 6.30 am, but it’s busiest between 7.30 am and 9.30 am, after which it starts tailing off again. The early evening rush hour starts around 4 pm and continues until 6.30 pm. Generally, it is busiest between 5 pm and 5.30 pm.  

The research was conducted to compile Inrix’s Traffic Scorecard Report, a study of global congestion hotspots. Some areas of London are worse than others, with a 10-mile stretch of the A217 identified as the most gridlocked road in the city, while a stretch of the A215 from Shirley Road in Croydon to Albany Road in Camberwell comes a close second.  

For people living in suburban locations, a smaller-scale rush hour for school runs is inevitable. The afternoon gridlock begins at about 3 pm and sometimes goes straight into the central rush hour at about 4 pm.  


London’s rush hour is history, tracing back to the Industrial Revolution. That’s when London experienced hyperactive transportation needs, eventually leading to the creation of the world’s first underground railway in 1863. The city experienced mammoth growth and an expansive transit system. However, the combination of old, narrow streets and the contemporary rush makes London’s traffic congestion uniquely challenging.  

As a global financial and cultural beacon, London draws millions daily, weaving a complex dance of past and present on its historic roads. This intersection of heritage and high demand showcases the city’s enduring quest to meld tradition with modern mobility. 


There’s no way to avoid rush hour in London driving other than setting off for work ridiculously early or working until late into the evening. If you’re on flexi-time, adjusting your hours to avoid peak traffic times may be possible.  

Consider using the London Underground to circumvent the congestion of London’s rush hour traffic. However, it’s important to note that during peak times, this mode of transport experiences a high volume of commuters. The underground trains and stations are densely packed from 7:30 am to 9:00 am and 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, marking the morning and evening rush hours, respectively.  

If you’re not a commuter and don’t need to drive during rush hour, don’t! If you’re going to the airport to catch a flight or collecting or returning one of our hired vans, don’t travel at peak times, and you’ll avoid the gridlock.  

Unfortunately, rush hour is a necessary evil for most of us. However, keep your cool and your wits about you so you don’t arrive at your destination feeling anxious.  


Stay calm; practice breathing exercises to keep quiet. Breathe deeply through your nose, hold your breath for 10 seconds, and then exhale equally slowly through your mouth.  

Lower the wear and tear on your vehicle by maintaining a constant speed where possible. Instead of stopping and starting with sudden bursts of speed and emergency stops, drive smoothly and be aware of what gear you’re in.  


Embark on a journey through London without the hassle of its infamous rush hour. Here’s how you can outsmart the city’s busiest times with ease and confidence: 

Weekday Travel: 

  • Buses: Less crowded between 08:30 am -03:00 pm and after 05:30 pm. 
  • Tube & Rail: Quieter times are 09:15 am-04:00 pm and after 06:45 pm. 

Weekend Strategies: 

  • Buses: Aim for before 11:00 am or after 06:00 pm. 
  • Tube & Rail: Best before noon and after 06:45 pm. 

Rush Hour Ends: 

  • Evening rush hour generally winds down after 06:45 pm on Tube and rail. 

Driving During Rush Hour: 

  • Shifting your travel by 30 minutes can ease your journey significantly. 

Optimal Morning Travel: 

  • Travelling between 07:30 am -08:00 am and 08:30 am -09:00 am sees 20% and 14% fewer commuters, respectively. 

Quieter Days: 

  • Mondays and Fridays are less busy in the mornings, with up to 16% and 30% fewer travellers.

By adjusting your travel times and choosing your days wisely, you can enjoy a more relaxed journey through London. 


Always be aware of what’s happening further up the road to anticipate changes in the traffic’s speed and to avoid any problems that may be imminent. Don’t be lulled into a hypnotic state – caused by the car’s brake lights immediately in front of you.  

If you are on the ball, you will be better able to anticipate the demands of the road ahead. If you see stationary traffic ahead, you can take your foot off the accelerator and glide gently to a halt.  

Although you can’t avoid London rush hour traffic times, there are ways to ensure it doesn’t harm your well-being.  

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