Government plans to switch road spending to Active Traffic Management will not solve congestion said new Institution of Highways & Transportation (IHT) president David Tarrant this week.
Tarrant, who is a director of consultant Gifford and former deputy environment director at Hampshire County Council said that using hard shoulders to increase capacity was an ineffective replacement for widening.
“There is no doubt that new technology and managing demand has a role to play,” he said.
“But the road network does need to increase capacity and remove bottlenecks to achieve the improvements Sir Rod Eddington demanded in his report [into the economics of transport] (NCE 7 December 2006). Active Traffic Management (ATM) is not enough – you need road widening too,” he said .
His call was backed by IHT research published today that says ATM schemes are a “self defeating” solution to the problem of increasing traffic congestion. The research was published as work to install ATM on the “Birmingham Box” of motorways begins in the Midlands.
Consultants told NCE this week that studies examining possible sites for further ATM schemes will be fast-tracked by the Highways Agency. An Agency spokesman confirmed that “a dozen or so schemes are being considered”. But he said that no timetable had been planned and that proposed sites would be rolled out up to 2014 (see below).
The IHT research warns that ATM could end up generating more traffic and causing more congestion.
“There is an apparent lack of consideration of the proposition that while [ATM] may be an effective means of managing traffic in the short term, it could in the longer term encourage traffic growth and emissions,” said University of the West of England professor of transport and society Glenn Lyons in his report, Learning from the Past.
The IHT commissioned the report for its presidential conference which began in Portsmouth today. “In short, good traffic management may equal bad demand management,” Lyons said. “This illustrates a key challenge facing government transport policy: doing nothing or managing by congestion is seen as unacceptable, yet doing something without ‘locking in the benefits’ can create problems of its own.”
He said that policies should be appraised and evaluated to identify indirect effects. McLean Hazel managing director George Hazel went further, saying: “There is no evidence that technology will reduce travel demand.”
Lyons’ conclusions were disputed by Hyder sector director of highways John Grieller. “What ATM is doing is questioning the axiom that you must have a hard shoulder for safety,” he said.
“Motorways are safer than dual carriageways with a hard shoulder, but with ATM it is safer still.
“And ATM is getting the best use out of the existing infrastructure. This is an affordable way to increase capacity,” he said.
Grieller acknowledged that ATM may create breathing space before congestion increases again, but he hoped that ATM could be further extended to manage this.
He suggested that drivers make journeys that take advantage of more efficient roads. But they may make different choices given reliable information about how congested a particular journey is.
“The Highways Agency is moving from predict and provide to predict and manage. Integrated demand management could give people travelling direct comparisons along a number of diff erent modes,” he said.
■ M1 Junctions 10-13 (Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire)
■ M1 Junctions 13-19 (Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire/Northamptonshire)
■ M1 Junctions 21-30 (Phase 2) (Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire)
■ M1 Junctions 30-31 (Sheffield)
■ M1 Junctions 32-34 (Sheffield)
■ M1 Junctions 34-37 (Yorkshire)
■ M1 Junctions 37-39 (Yorkshire)
■ M1 Junctions 39-42 (Wakefield)
■ M3/M4 approaching M25 (West London)
■ M6 Junctions 11a-19 (Birmingham)
■ M6/M60/M62/M56 around Manchester
■ M62 Junctions 25-30 (Bradford/Leeds)
■ M4/M5 around Bristol
■ M5/M6 around Birmingham
■ M20 Junctions 3-5 (Maidstone)
■ M23 Junctions 8-10 (Gatwick)
■ M25 Junctions 5-7 (Kent/Surrey)
■ M25 Junctions 23-27 (Hertfordshire)
■ M27/M3 around Southampton