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London roads strategy 'a retrograde step'

UNDER-MAINTAINED ROADS in London will deteriorate even further under proposals for a strategic network controlled by the mayor, borough engineers warned on Monday.

The proposals - outlined in a consultation paper published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions last week - will see about 350km of trunk roads and 170km of borough roads transferred to the Greater London Authority.

The mayor's office would be directly responsible for maintenance work and traffic management and would look after key river crossings and bus routes. The change is intended to improve traffic planning and provide unambiguous responsibility for the main roads through the capital.

But Bromley director of environmental services, and vice-chairman of the London Tech- nical Advisers Group Gordon Hayward described them as 'a retrograde step which would actually cause confusion.'

He claimed: 'Assuming funding levels are the same, there will be increasing delays and worsening maintenance standards.' Any moves to take responsibility for maintenance away from the boroughs would lead to less accountability and increased bureaucracy, he said.

London Borough of Islington head of highways Clive Chapman also claimed that the public would be confused about which roads were the responsibility of the local authorities and which had been transferred to the GLA. He added: 'This is not necessarily a problem for sustaining an in-house workforce but it takes away the consistency of approach and may not give value for money.'

London's roads have suffered years of under-investment and are already the worst in the UK. According to government figures last year, more than 16% of the capital's busiest roads had a residual life of less than zero in 1995, compared to 8% in the Midlands and less than 5% elsewhere (NCE 13 March 1997).

A spokesman for the DETR stressed that the proposals were not yet finalised. He added: 'This is a consultation paper and clearly we will take those views into account when we take the final decision.'

Matthew Jones

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