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Call for strategic vision for road network

The Government lacks a strategic vision for the UK road network, despite the progress it has made on a National Infrastructure Plan and broader transport policy, the CBI has said.

Speaking at the Highways Term Maintenance Association’s annual conference CBI deputy director general Dr Neil Bentley said that the strategic vision for roads should start with a National Policy Statement on road and rail, and a full review of the Highways Agency.

Citing official estimates that road congestion costs UK businesses £8bn a year, a figure set to double by 2025 when road traffic will have increased by a third, the CBI called on the Government to allow for greater use of private capital in the road network, including the use of finance mechanisms including tax-incremental financing (TIF) schemes, to support investment. Bentley also called for a debate on road charging.

 “Instead of a strategic vision, we have a policy of make-do and mend. £200M of investment in tackling potholes is welcome and vital to fix roads up and down the country, but it will not deliver the network-wide improvements we need,” he said.

“The lack of vision is tying us to a roads policy that is tentative, unplanned and – in the view of CBI members – consistently falling short.

“The Government’s Plan for Growth, published with last month’s Budget, confirmed £30bn of transport investment over the next five years. We are pleased the Government has learnt from the long-term consequences of previous recessions and opted not to cut capital investment in transport completely.

“But the Government’s spending commitments need to be accompanied by a clear vision for the major road network. So we repeat our call for a national transport policy statement for our road and rail network to be delivered as a matter of urgency.”

He added that the CBI welcomed the recent announcement of a review of the Highways Agency, which should become an “independent and strategic” body, able to deliver better outcomes for road users and support private-sector investment in the road network.

“Road charging can form part of this investment picture – using tolls at a local level to allow additional investment in new strategic road links or in additional lanes at congestion pinch points. We need to open the debate on road charging, discuss the issues openly, look at examples internationally, and understand the impact of changes on freight and passenger traffic,” Bentley added.:

Readers' comments (1)

  • John Mather

    Interesting, we certainly cannot carry on as we are! Transport policy appears to be largely limited to HS2 (jam for some tomorrow), Crossrail (which will do little for those of us who do not live in the SE), encouraging walking and cycling (OK for short distances and for those who have the time and the energy) and filling potholes (where there is evidently much to do). The poor old Highways Agency, having recently been battered by the NAO and the PAC for it's management of the sorely needed M25 DBFO project has, according to its current Business Plan, had to make substantial reductions in its resource budgets for network management, maintenance and the traffic officer service in order to meet its rising roads and technology PFI service payments. We urgently need some innovation, leadership and common sense. This country needs a safe, reliable, affordable and well-maintained road system. Without it, we will continue to struggle in the mire.

    John Mather

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