Memorandum by RAC Foundation (TYP 4)
The RAC Foundation is established to promote
the environmental, economic, mobility and safety issues relating
to the use of motor vehicles. The Foundation is a charity which
conducts research into issues such as, the car and the environment,
civilising cities, local transport plans and the future of motoring.
The Foundation polls motorists on motoring issues and has recently
established a Road User Representation Section to represent the
interests of motorists in the multi-modal studies.
Our concern is with the needs of road users,
particularly those in cars. Our assessment is that road will continue
to be the dominant form of transport for the foreseeable future
and that the demand for road use will grow. We would note particularly
car journeys account for more than
85 per cent of personal movement;
car travel is continuing to grow
and so is congestion; and
life and work have become increasingly
car related, such that;
for a substantial proportion
of journeys, car is the only realistic means.
It is clear that the road infrastructure is
increasingly unable to cope with the growing traffic.
We welcomed the 1998 White Paper "A new
Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone" and believe that
successful delivery of initiatives for integrated transport will
help to reduce the demand for road use, but we would emphasise
that, in our view, the impact of such measures relative to the
total demand will be small.
We also welcomed the 10 Year Plan and particularly
its commitment to an increased level of spending on new roads.
We have, however, become increasingly concerned at the limited
number of projects currently available and the length of time
likely to be required to redress this. The need for exercises
like the Multi-Modal Studies to investigate transport planning
options comprehensively is understood but few of the studies have
yet produced recommendations. When they do, agreed road schemes
will need to be processed through the full statutory procedures,
requiring public consultation and public inquiry, before they
can be implemented.
We note the Government's commitment to speeding
up procedures but fear that, even with this, the number of schemes
which will be ready for building within the period of the 10 Year
Plan will be small and will use only a small part of the funds
earmarked for new roads at the outset. The Plan refers to "an
average of 10 years from the introduction of a typical major scheme
into the road programme to the start of construction" (para
6.4, page 41) and says that "it should be possible to reduce
this period by at least a third, if not more". Even if achieved
this would lead to a concentration of schemes ready for construction
in the final two to three years of the Plan and a low level of
activity until then. If not achieved, the majority of schemes
originating from Multi-Modal Studies would not complete the statutory
processes within the 10 years of the Plan.
We have strong doubts, therefore, that the funds
proposed for new roads will be used in full and effectively. The
Plan sets a target of reducing congestion on inter-urban trunk
roads to five percent below current levels by 2010 (para 6.33,
page 55). The slow progress with bringing new schemes forward
makes achievement of this target very unlikely and, on present
prospects, there is a strong likelihood that congestion will get
progressively worse through the Plan period.
A further concern about the Multi-Modal Studies
is that some have shown a tendency to support alternatives to
car and lorry transport without a full consideration of their
practical feasibility. It is clearly crucial to resolving our
widespread transport problems that dependence is not placed on
introducing new measures which will not deliver. With this in
mind we think it important that 10 Year Plan budgets can be reallocated
between modes to ensure that funds are used as effectively as
An important element of the 10 Year Plan from
our standpoint is the provision for road maintenance, and particularly
that for removing the large backlog of maintenance needed on the
local road network through the Local Transport Plan (LTP) process.
We see it as vital that funds are channelled and used effectively
for this activity. Local highway authorities have indicated that
removing the backlog will in many cases take more than the five-year
period of the initial LTPs. It is vital that the available funds
are used fully and effectively if the local network is to be restored
to satisfactory operation in reasonable time.
A recent study
has shown that availability of the skills necessary for planning
and implementing new transport projects and initiatives is at
a very low level following a long period of limited activity.
This applies to all areas including planning and building new
roads. Education and training take time and, until the resource
is restored to a suitable level, both preparation and implementation
of plans are likely to be slow and less than fully effective.
We would urge that this should be seen as a crucial issue for
the 10 Year Plan and that commitment to the Plan should include
commitment to developing the necessary resource to implement it.
In summary, we would press that:
the continuing dominance of road
transport and the increasing pressure on the road network must
be given full recognition in transport planning;
integrated transport initiatives
will help to reduce the pressure on roads but only on a very limited
the 10 Year Plan provision for new
roads is welcome but we have real concerns that the Multi-Modal
Study process followed by statutory procedures will mean that
there are few new schemes available for building within the Plan
the viability of alternatives to
road proposed in the MMSs should be very critically assessed;
the use of the additional provision
for maintaining the road network should be monitored to ensure
that it is used fully and effectively; and
the need to increase as a matter
of urgency the transport skills and capability resource should
be recognised and addressed by Government as part of its commitment
to the Plan.
1 Bill Billington and Hugh Wenban-Smith for the Rees
Jeffreys Road Fund (2000) Transport Skills for the New Millennium
(London: Landor Publishing). Back