The Strategic Road Network (SRN) is a crucial part of our national transport system. The DfT predicts traffic levels on the SRN to rise by 46% by 2040. The network has suffered from inconsistent funding and changes in Government policy over the past two decades. Road users deserve clarity on how the network can be part of a high quality integrated transport system.
If the traffic forecasts are correct, the Government will need to increase investment in the road network substantially during the next decade. This requires new long-term funding streams. A consensus would be required to introduce any road user charging scheme across the SRN and the many issues involved would have to be resolved.
The DfT must develop a transparent system of road planning as part of a wider national transport strategy. The DfT's National Transport Model (NTM) should be subject to wider scrutiny. The DfT should commission integrated passenger and freight plans for strategic transport routes, rather looking at one mode of transport in isolation.
We are not convinced by the case for establishing the Highways Agency as a Government-owned company (GoCo). The benefits seem achievable through better management of the current agency and its relationship with the DfT. We strongly support the five-year funding plans being introduced for the agency, but do not believe that a change in the agency's status is required for their delivery.
If the Highways Agency becomes a GoCo, it will need a strong system of scrutiny. The current proposals for this are inadequate. The new scrutiny body will need the power of a full regulatory authority. The GoCo must view road users as customers and other organisations as partners in the delivery of an integrated transport network.