Better roads: Improving England's Strategic Road Network - Transport Committee Contents

3  An effective programme

Route-based strategies

28. In Action for roads, the DfT announced that it would develop a programme of route-based road strategies. The Minister explained the reasoning:

    …one must look at the whole road as a route in order to make sure that money spent improving a section, by dualling it or—dare I say—putting a tunnel past Stonehenge, or a dual carriageway through the Blackdown hills, or wherever, is not just pushing the problem further along. The route-based strategies are aimed at doing that.

29. Business organisations welcomed this new programme of investment.[64] Sustainable transport and conservation groups opposed it, citing the impact on the environment of new road building and arguing that new capacity would create more congestion through induced demand.[65] This concern about induced demand was questioned by the CILT:

    The fact that more people are going to travel doesn't mean that you shouldn't provide the capacity for them. We don't say, "Oh, isn't it terrible that Marks & Spencer have opened a new shop? That will encourage people to shop more." There is an economic benefit to some of these things.[66]

30. Several witnesses asked for the route-based strategies to incorporate plans for railway improvements for passengers and freight, as well as options for local transport infrastructure.[67] Oxfordshire County Council told us:

    If you take a step back and look at the strategic context, you cannot think about how to address some of the challenges with the strategic road network without putting them in the context of the transport system as a whole… That is where the idea of having a road investment strategy, linking it very much more not just with investment in strategic rail schemes but also with local transport investment, is absolutely fundamental.[68]

31. Oxera expressed a similar view about integrating rail and road decisions, emphasising the importance of a long-term perspective on strategic transport planning:

    The proposed changes give the opportunity for a co-ordinated rail and road investment strategy that could look 25 years into the future. What are the demands going to be on the road network, on the rail network and on parallel corridors, for example? ... There is a real opportunity to change how we plan between rail and road and to make sure that we are taking investment decisions… on a consistent basis across the two networks.[69]

32. Professor Stephen Glaister, of the RAC Foundation, also saw the benefit of integrating rail and road along what he termed a 'corridor of need', while emphasising that this was not part of the current proposals:

    I agree that it is a great opportunity, but I am not sure that the Government's current proposals are going to take it up. I do not think there is any forum in which anybody is going to say, "Here is a corridor of need. To what extent will we meet that by road of by rail?" That is not on the table, and it should be.[70]

33. Badly maintained roads also impact on a route's capacity. We received many complaints about the state of the SRN and its feeder roads.[71] The EEF told us that its members had highlighted the backlog in the road maintenance programme and the consequent deterioration in the quality of the road network as issues of major concern.[72]Ch2m Hill, a transport consultancy, said that resurfacing is necessary on the SRN to reduce the number of vehicles that are damaged by potholes, which cause breakdowns and reduce vehicle efficiency.[73]

34. During our visit to North America, we discussed trials of route maintenance and investment strategies during our meetings with the staff of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and then during our meetings with the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) and state transport officials in Richmond, Virginia. Virginia was one of the states trialling a new way of devising improvements to congested routes. This involved the selection of a congested route and the implementation of a co-ordinated package of transport measures, identified as both suitable and politically acceptable, to address congestion.

35. Virginia selected the Interstate 95 road, which travels south from Washington DC, for its route investment strategy trial. It developed a package of measures, working with the FHWA and local stakeholders, which included:

·  expanding the collection of real time traffic flow data and making it available publicly through road signs, web data and apps

·  improving the speed at which accidents and other incidents can be resolved by locating highway controllers in the same building as the emergency services

·  providing information to travellers about routes by alternative modes of travel during periods of congestion

·  promoting ride sharing for car users, especially commuters

·  encouraging commuters to change their time of travel

·  promoting flexible working as a policy for employers

·  prioritising buses, coaches and ride sharing on sections of road heavily used by commuters, through building high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes

·  expanding park and ride schemes

·  introducing managed motorways with hard shoulder running on selected sections of route

36. The Virginia scheme involved an integrated programme of measures. It was designed to make travellers aware of alternative means of transport, to deal quickly with accidents and other obstructions to traffic flow and to reduce the congestion caused by commuters using the busiest sections of strategic road during the peak period. It was a good example how a strategic road, public transport and local investment strategy might be devised and implemented along a 'corridor of need'.

37. We note that the DfT has implemented some of the measures being trialled in Virginia—for example, managed motorways on stretches of the M1, M4, M5, M6, M42 and M62. Many local authorities are running park and ride schemes outside major towns and cities to reduce the level of traffic demand on and around the SRN in urban areas. Transport for London is one authority looking at how out-of-hours deliveries could be encouraged and the extent to which this could reduce congestion.[74] Many witnesses asked for such measures to be implemented as part of a comprehensive and integrated regional programme with the SRN, rather than as individual initiatives in specific locations.[75]

38. The DfT should commission integrated passenger and freight plans for strategic transport routes or regions, rather than looking at one mode of transport in isolation. Such integrated plans, which should be developed in consultation with local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and community and road user groups, must take into account how different options for the use of infrastructure and technology will impact on transport movements and on economic development. The DfT must then identify projects—including maintenance schemes—within the chosen plan for implementation within the five-year funding cycle. Every project should be subject to a post-implementation review to assess the effectiveness of the investment. We recommend that this process be set out in the forthcoming Roads Investment Strategy.

64   Q 74 [Ms Dee and Mr Radley], SRN 43, SRN 55 Back

65   Q 105 [Mr Joseph], Q 134 [Mr Spiers], SRN 29, SRN 44 Back

66   Q 158 [Mr Coates] Back

67   Q 144 [Mr Coates], SRN 2, SRN 3, SRN 4, SRN 14, SRN 35, SRN 47, SRN 48 Back

68   Q 104 [Mr Tugwell] Back

69   Q 175 [Mr Meaney] Back

70   Q 175 [Professor Glaister] Back

71   SRN 5, SRN 7, SRN 18, SRN 21, SRN 28, SRN 29, SRN 45, SRN 51, SRN 52, SRN 61 Back

72   Q 68 [Mr Radley], SRN 43 Back

73   SRN 36 Back

74   SRN 50 Back

75   SRN 7, SRN 14, SRN 28, SRN 30, SRN 33, SRN 35, SRN 36, SRN 38, SRN 39, SRN 44, SRN 47,  Back

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Prepared 7 May 2014