Alongside the Action for Roads document published earlier in the week, which outlined the government’s spending plans for roads in the next parliament, out came the latest road transport forecasts looking as far ahead as 2040. This is a critical piece of work and not one for the faint of heart, but at its core are assumptions about three key variables:
- The price of fuel
- Population growth
- Economic growth
Taking various positions on these, the analysts have come up with a range of estimates for both traffic growth and congestion growth. Assuming the central projections for each variable the department is now forecasting:
- 39% increase in car traffic across all roads by 2040
- 80% rise in van traffic
- 19% growth in HGV traffic
They then translate that into congestion which, based on the central estimate, will be up 114% on the strategic roads by 2040 and 61% across all roads.
There are at least two other important things in the report worth noting.
“Up to 2030 CO2 emissions are projected to decline by 20% before starting to rise again due to increasing travel demand. Without further policy intervention and improvements in fuel efficiency, this would imply a 15% reduction on 2010 levels by 2040.”
“HS2 Ltd forecasts that around 7% of its travel demand will be shifted from road travel. In 2037 this means that around 25,000 trips per day, equivalent to 0.9% of long distance inter-zone car trips will be shifted to HS2. This 0.9% is equivalent to one year’s traffic growth and highlights that the impact of HS2 does not affect the key facts and conclusion of this document.”
The RAC Foundation welcomed the plans detailed in the Action for Roads document to invest in motorways and other major routes, but by 2018 more money will be being spent building HS2 than adding capacity to our strategic roads.
And this road transport forecast seems to lay bare the truth about yet another shortcoming of HS2. While drivers and hauliers will stew in ever lengthening jams, ministers are prepared to commit to a £50 billion scheme for the rich that will barely dent traffic growth. So much for letting the train take the strain. For most people, most of the time, the car is public transport – and so it will remain. It’s hard now to see how HS2 stacks up at any level.