Transport groups this week hit out at what they called a government “bias” towards investment in rail over roads.
They were responding to transport secretary Lord Adonis’ assertion that it was no longer viable to build new intercity motorways.
Adonis said that high speed rail was the “most attractive option” for investing in capacity for intercity travellers.
He was speaking while launching his £30bn proposal to build a new high speed line serving London , Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, based on a feasibility study by the government’s High Speed 2 (HS2) company.
Transport experts slammed Adonis for favouring expansion of rail and neglecting the benefits of investing in roads.
“It is vital that we continue to invest in and develop all our transport networks.”
Department of Transport
“The HS2 study is a good piece of work in its own terms,” said RAC Foundation director Stephen Glaister. “But if you believe high speed rail is needed then you must also expect demand for road [travel] to grow.”
He said that many road users would fail to reap the benefits of high speed rail. “Most road travel is not intercity. It’s made up of much shorter journeys,” he said.
AA president Edmund King agreed. “Rail cannot cater for all journeys,” he said. “There are those who have multiple meetings in different places. No matter how good rail is, it can’t cater for that.”
Budget cuts expected
Fears are increasing that spending on roads is in jeopardy. The Campaign for Better Transport said it expected transport to be “targeted strongly” in the Budget for spending cuts.
It said road projects had become “very expensive” and that the government’s £6bn roads spend was an obvious target.
The Department for Transport said it was committed to tackling road congestion, but that rail was also a priority,
“It is also vital we continue to invest in and develop all our transport networks to ensure that we deliver a transport system that increases choice, economic growth and makes a full contribution to our environmental objectives.
“So we make no apology for investing in rail. Passenger levels have increased by 53% over the last 12 years and numbers are predicted to rise further,” said a spokesman.