More investment in the road network
It’s urgently needed.
Successive governments have failed to appreciate the importance of the road network to the country`s economy, with the result that investment in improving the strategic network and maintaining roads in a safe condition has been wholly inadequate. This has led to congestion increasing as economic growth has created greater demand for travel. Congestion causes delays that cost billions of pounds per year. Poor maintenance has led to the condition of many roads deteriorating to the point where they cause damage to vehicles and contribute to accidents.
Motorways and dual carriageways have much lower accident rates than single-carriageway roads. The failure to upgrade many rural A-roads to dual carriageway or motorway standard to cope with rising traffic flows has led not only to congestion and unreliable journey times but also to increasing frequency of accidents. These are often caused by frustrated drivers attempting unsafe overtaking manoeuvres or trying to cross or join a main road through a gap in the traffic that is too short.
With 83% of passenger mileage undertaken by cars, vans and taxis, and roads carrying 90% of inland freight (2015 figures), road travel is by far the most important transport mode to the economy. Yet this is not reflected in the split of government transport expenditure. In 2015/16, total public spending on transport was £28.1bn, of which just £6.69bn (24%) was spent on improving and maintaining roads. Railways, which carry just 10% of passenger miles and less than 5% of freight, received £15.17bn, 54% of the transport budget. Local public transport (mainly buses, which carry 5% of passenger miles) received £2.7bn, 10% of total transport expenditure.
The Government proposes to skew expenditure even more in favour of rail with its plans to build a high speed railway network (HS2) from London to Birmingham and beyond. This vanity project will cost over £55bn, money which could achieve a much greater return if used instead to upgrade the strategic road network and tackle the backlog of maintenance work. The economic case for HS2 is based on forecasts of passenger numbers that most serious economists regard as grossly exaggerated, so the project is unlikely to ever pay its way. It will also be environmentally damaging to the areas it passes through and lead to reduced levels of service on existing railway lines.
The ABD believes, therefore, that transport expenditure should be reallocated in a way that more closely reflects the importance of the road network to the nation.
We need a more enlightened transport policy in essence.