London, 16 Dec 2005.
For immediate release.

Contact: Malcolm Heymer

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Association of British Drivers Refutes Link Between New Roads and Traffic Growth
The completion of the M25 widening works between the M3 and M4 has led to predictable claims by the anti-roads lobby that increasing highway capacity just creates more traffic. This simplistic argument is totally false.
 
Government figures (1) show that, between 1951 and 2004, the UK public road network grew in length by just 30 per cent, while in the same period the volume of traffic grew by nearly 750 per cent. This shows quite convincingly that traffic levels are not related to the extent of the highway network.
 
Traffic flows are, instead, linked to economic growth. New roads only generate traffic if there is supressed demand. Looked at another way, if highway capacity is inadequate then economic growth is restricted and we all suffer as a result. The UK has suffered from underinvestment in its road network for far too long. But the problem is deeper than that.
 
ABD spokesman Malcolm Heymer, a former transport planner, explains:
"Car ownership levels in the UK are only average within Europe, but we have higher than average levels of congestion. In addition to the failure to invest adequately in new roads, there has been a lack of understanding by successive governments of how transport is affected by policies in other areas.
 
The present government's transport policies include reducing the need to travel, but many of its actions work against that policy. For instance, the UK has a very high level of home ownership, but moving house is both expensive - due to high levels of stamp duty that the government has imposed — and stressful, due to a lack of legal deterrents to potential buyers who decide to pull out at the last minute.
 
Consequently, when people change jobs — as they must now expect to do several times during their working lives — they are reluctant to move house. They would rather stay where they are, spend the money they save on improvements to their existing house, and put up with a longer journey to work. The government should be making it easier, not more difficult, to move house, and it should also be giving financial incentives to companies to encourage innovations such as teleworking."
But it is not just reluctant commuters who add to congestion. Peak hour traffic is boosted by 'school run' parents, who feel they have little choice but to drive their children to distant schools, because of government failure to improve educational standards in all schools.
 
ABD chairman Brian Gregory concludes:
"Instead of blaming drivers for congestion, the government should be looking at the transport implications of its failures in other policy areas. Transport has been the Cinderella of politics for far too long, and the results are plain to see by anyone who has the misfortune to have to use our overcrowded roads on a regular basis."

 

References:
(1) Transport Statistics GB, 2005

 
Notes for Editors