MPs say strategically important roads may have to be handed back tot he Highways Agency for repair as local authorities often spend less on their roads than the government provides for.
In their new report, into the: “Major Road Network”, the transport select committee of MPs praised the Highways Agency for their management of major roads, but said local authority roads are suffering as a result of poor planning and expensive repair regimes.
Committee chair Louise Ellman said: “Congestion on our major road network costs our economy enormous sums every year. The Government needs to demonstrate leadership by ensuring that a wide range of cost-effective tools are used in the fight against congestion.”
Evidence given to the committee suggests that some local authorities spend less money on the maintenance of major roads than the government provides. Consequently they say the Government should set out clearer guidelines for what local authorities need to spend on their major roads.
They say that where a strategically important, but locally managed, road needs improvement that cannot be locally funded, that road should either revert to back to the Highways Agency (re-trunking), or government should providing extra cash to the relevant local authority.
MPs also concluded that the Highways Agency and local authorities should give better information to the need to the travelling public, giving details not only of congestion but also of traffic management such as hard shoulder running.
“It is vital that the public understands what is happening, and why the speed limit is lower than normal. That may be because of road works, an accident or because of congestion. We have all experienced the frustration of temporary speed restrictions, sometimes for miles, for no apparent reason. Information provided for the public needs to be comprehensive and absolutely up-to-date. Information that is out of date is no better than having no information at all,” said Ellman.
The Committee also concludes that:
- The Government must develop more detailed forecasts of future traffic growth so that it is better able to plan for the needs of different types of drivers in future;
- Trunk roads should normally be dual carriageway, and the Highways Agency needs to take steps to upgrade the 900 miles of trunk roads which are currently single carriageway as soon as possible;
- Where capacity is increased on the major road network, the Government and local authorities need to give very careful thought to the impact on other, smaller local roads, and
- The Government’s efforts to have more goods transported by rail and water are welcome, and the development of a strategic freight network needs to be beefed up.
ICE Vice President Geoff French, said: “The Transport Committee’s findings and recommendations are welcome - congestion on our major road network is costly to the economy and more must be done to tackle it.
“Road travel will continue to play a major part in UK transport, so Government must take the lead by setting out how we manage our roads more effectively and efficiently. This includes more detailed forecasts on future traffic growth and the provision of integrated low-carbon public transport networks that offer people real choice. This will be key in cutting congestion and emissions and reducing car dependency for all or part of a journey.
“ICE also backs the Committee’s recommendations for Central Government to provide guidance to local authorities on road maintenance spending. There are huge maintenance backlogs right across the country and unfortunately the focus is on short term ‘quick fixes’ rather than long term preventative programmes that properly address defects. Some guidance on spending isn’t going to solve the back log, but it could help it from getting worse,” he said.