MOTORISTS in Southampton are being driven mad by some of the slowest traffic queues in the country.

Roadworks, red lights and thousands of passengers disembarking from cruise ships combine to create daily misery for people behind the wheel.

Now the city has been exposed in a study by insurance firm Direct Line which has named and shamed the nation’s top ten most gridlocked cities.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Winchester was named as one of the most stress-free cities for a journey to work in a car.

The survey reveals Southampton’s traffic moves just 2mph faster in peak times than in the heart of London – where vehicles move at just 10mph.

It is further humiliation for transport chiefs who last year launched a raft of measures to tackle roads chaos when the city twice ground to a halt in a perfect storm of major roadworks and multiple cruise ships in port.

But transport groups have dismissed the figures, claiming a host of jambusting projects are improving the city’s roads.

The research found that drivers in Southampton crawl along at an average of 12.64mph during rush hour, making it the tenth slowest out of 49 cities studied.

It is almost half the speed of traffic in Winchester where motorists cruise along at 19.99mph.

Thursday has been highlighted as the worst day on Southampton roads, while Friday is the worst to travel into Winchester.

The figures were measured by Direct Line’s Drive Plus telematics system enabling people to track their journeys by calculating speeds and locations to try to slash times and save fuel.

They draw on three billion speed and location observations in 20 million miles of data logged by motorists between December last year and April 2012.

Last night Southampton City Council refused to comment on the survey.

But Nick Farthing, area manager for green transport charity Sustrans, stressed that infrastructure work such as the Platform to Prosperity in Platform Road and improvements to Central Bridge will greatly improve the city’s traffic flow.

He also said initiatives they are running with the council such as ‘My Journey’ were encouraging more individuals and big company employees to walk, cycle and travel by public transport.

He said: “Congestion in peak times and a speed of 12mph is not that bad.

“There is a lot of work being done and the council is spending a lot of money improving infrastructure.

“People are happy to line up for tenminutes to get a coffee but can’t wait for two minutes in a traffic queue.”

Former Winchester City Council transport leader Cllr Victoria Weston said that while the city’s narrow streets often caused bottlenecks, the recent adoption of 20mph speed limits would increase safety and encourage more people to walk and cycle.

She said: “Many short journeys are still done by car but if you can make the streets safer more people will walk and bring a big improvement in air quality.”