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Government's motorway plans slammed on network's 50th anniversary

Plans to boost Britain’s motorway capacity through hard shoulder running were criticised today on the fiftieth anniversary of the motorway network.

Roads lobby group the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) Foundation used today’s anniversary to publish a review of the current state and future plans for the motorway network, claiming that the roads element of the £700M fiscal stimulus for transport in last week’s pre-budget report was misguided.

The lobby group said that concentrating all road improvements on existing motorways through measures such as Motorway widening and hard shoulder running was problematic, because existing junctions and access roads were unlikely to be able to cope with increased traffic volumes.

It claimed that new road building was also needed if the demands of the economy were to be met.

“To plan effectively for future roads we must learn from our past failures,” said RAC Foundation director professor Stephen Glaister.

“We need a better understanding of who is using the network and why, and how our infrastructure in the UK measures up to our European counterparts.

“Merely filling gaps within our existing Motorways would be a missed opportunity. This is not a good approach for society, the economy or the environment. We need to think in broader terms. Simply widening existing routes and implementing hard shoulder running will not provide adequate and resilient roads for the future.”

According to the report road development should focus on developing the motorway network for five main reasons:

  1. Motorways have lower accident rates than other roads;

  2. Motorways are generally further away from residential and commercial developments;

  3. Motorways allow for higher capacities and service levels than other roads;

  4. New by passes will largely be able to join up with existing main routes, and;

  5. The British Motorway network is sparse by European standards;

Concentrating all road improvements to the existing network, says the report, rather than building wholly new routes would:

  • Encourage long distance and heavy goods vehicles to use inappropriate routes through residential areas, especially where no nearby motorway exists;

  • Reduce the resilience of the overall road network and increases the likelihood of network failure due to a lack of alternative routes;

  • Concentrate more traffic on existing routes and increase the likelihood of serious congestion, and;

  • Increase pressure on junction and feeder roads that were designed for lower levels of traffic. Continued motorway widening and hard shoulder running activities will increase the traffic pressure seen at intersections.

“Roads are the arteries that feed the economy and permit us to compete with the rest of Europe,” said Road Users’ Alliance director Tim Green.

“As a boost to the process of getting Britain back on its feet the Chancellor’s announcement is welcome recognition of the importance of our road network, but it represents too little too late. At stake is the recovery of the British economy and its future growth in the face of global competition.”

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