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Posts Tagged ‘road investment’

Within twenty years there could be another seven million drivers in the UK meaning that, if current trends persist, the total will leap from about 36 million to 43 million.

The sharp rise is predominantly due to a growing and ageing population, and threatens to bring increased congestion and travel delays, especially in urban areas.

The forecast by the RAC Foundation helps explain why official figures suggest that traffic is set to rise by about a fifth in towns and cities in England and Wales over the next ten years; and by a third over the next 20 years (compared with 2010, Table 1).

Table 1: Increase in traffic (billions of vehicle miles) on urban roads by region (compared to 2010):

Region 2010

(Urban traffic

billion vehicle miles)

2025

(% change

on 2010)

2035

(% change

on 2010)

North East 7.8 18% 31%
Yorks & Humber 18.1 25% 40%
East Midlands 9.2 23% 35%
East of England 11.5 25% 39%
South East 19.2 22% 36%
London 19.4 22% 35%
South West 8.7 23% 36%
West Midlands 16.8 20% 33%
North West 22.7 19% 32%
England 133.4 22% 35%
Wales 4.6 19% 32%

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/road-transport-forecasts-2013

The traffic and driver figures are at the heart of the debate over the way we will travel in the future. As part of its contribution to the subject the RAC Foundation invited twelve experts and organisations, with a wide range of perspectives, to give their views on urban transportation in the decades ahead.

These essays are published in Moving Cities: The future of urban travel. Each essay presents the author’s independent view.

Amongst the points raised in the essays:

  • 49% of people in England and Wales live in towns and cities with a population of at least 250,000
  • Three-quarters of households in towns have at least one car
  • Two-thirds of households in cities have at least one car
  • In-vehicle technology and smart traffic management systems are already playing a major role in fighting congestion, reducing carbon emissions and keeping people safe
  • Electric cars will bring significant environmental benefits but the cheap price of fuel relative to petrol and diesel could increase traffic
  • The pricing of transport is one of the most significant policy levers ministers have to create behaviour change
  • Change is almost certain to be incremental
  • Government will retain a crucial role in setting funding and regulatory framework

 

Today the infrastructure minister Danny Alexander has announced 84 new major road schemes which will be funded from the £15 billion already earmarked for the strategic road network over the course of the next parliament. This is very welcome, but the Foundation’s work illustrates the massive challenges we also face in unclogging our urban areas.

We all want to see more drivers using alternative methods of getting about but the government’s own figures suggest we face an uphill battle under present policies. To preserve the quality of life in towns and cities we must revise our travel expectations and ministers need to set clear and coherent strategies to facilitate this.

The UK’s automotive industry is leading the world in innovation to protect road users and the environment but technical innovation is not a panacea. It’s perhaps no surprise that jetpacks never caught on, but it is disappointing how levels of home and tele-working have risen so little over the past decade despite the telecoms revolution.

We should also be cautious about what driverless cars can deliver. They could dramatically cut death on the roads and give mobility to people usually excluded from personal transport: the young, the very old, those with frailties. But this new-found freedom could actually make our roads busier not quieter.

This is a list of papers and authors:

Viewpoint – RAC Foundation

Coping with the aftermath of peak car in urban areas – Christian Wolmar

Trends in urban travel behaviour – Scott Le Vine & John Polak, Imperial College

The then and now of urban areas – David Bayliss

Shaping demand in urban areas – David Bayliss

Maximising the use of the road network in London – Garrett Emmerson, TfL

Opening the highways to all in the 21st century – Ford Motor Company

The dawn of now: changes in transport design – Dale Harrow, Royal College of Art

Customer technology: the ticket to greater mobility – Shashi Verma, TfL

Urban space and street design – John Dales, Urban Movement

Spontaneous mobility – John Miles, Cambridge University

Regulation: bridge or barrier – Philip Pank

The (likely) future of urban mobility – Timothy Papandreou, The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

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If anyone was in any doubt about how spending on roads had gone into free fall in recent years, they only needed to listen to roads minister Stephen Hammond speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum the other day:

“… we’ve under invested in roads for decades.

“The World Economic Forum ranks the UK 24th in the world for the quality of its road network at the moment.

“By contrast, France and Germany are in the top ten.

“It is a simple fact that since 1990, France has built 2,700 miles of new motorway – more than the entire UK motorway network. We have built just 46, between 2001 and 2009.

“And between 1990 and 2001, annual spending on trunk road schemes in England fell by more than 80% in real terms.

“The continual stop go has had a huge impact. This is something that we, as a government, are working hard to address.

“Because we know that if we don’t act now to improve our roads, the repercussions will be felt for generations to come.”

The lack of investment – which the government promised to go some way towards rectifying in the recent infrastructure announcement – should be welcomed by all road users.

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By Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation.

The Budget marks a sad end to a period of keen anticipation for those of us who recognise the vital importance of a reform that would deliver the road infrastructure needed to cope with growing population and economic recovery.

A year ago the Prime Minister recognised the problem and announced an aspiration for pension funds and sovereign wealth funds to step in and provide the necessary capital. Civil service reviews into national roads strategy and the feasibility of new funding and financing models were duly completed in the autumn. But in the Autumn Statement announcements were delayed until today’s Budget.

Except today there weren’t any.  The Budget confirmed that the government has no plans to reform Vehicle Excise Duty in the life of this Parliament. That essentially kicks the whole subject into touch.

So what are we left with? There is a possibility that a discussion document on road funding and financing may be published in the summer. There is a possibility that some of the new increased capital spending plans by £3 billion per annum might be for roads: but it does not start until 2015-16, there will be other pressing claims on it and it only amounts to a ten percent increase on current levels.

Meanwhile, there remains nothing for the private sector to invest in.  There are some welcome new government funds for maintenance and to relieve pinch points—but there is no proper roads strategy and no committed funding to go with one. We still await a National Policy Statement on roads and railways. We await a promised National Transport Policy. The crucial A14 languishes whilst  local controversy over tolls are resolved and a complex local funding packages is negotiated.

The Budget announces “a focus on delivery … an enhanced cadre of commercial specialists in Infrastructure UK who will be deployed into infrastructure projects across Government, and the establishment by the summer of tough new Infrastructure Capacity Plans to drive forward progress in key Government Departments…” So what has been going on over the last year?

It’s all vague talk. Without institutional reform, including some way to bring in new money nothing much is going to happen. Our road network will become less and less adequate for a growing, civilised county.

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