The road network

 

During the last government many road schemes were cancelled and little new road building took place. At the same time both local and  national government sought to manage the existing road system more intensively, often reducing traffic flows and traffic speeds. Sometimes this was necessary for good safety reasons. On other occasions it was done to try to force people out of the car and van onto public transport.

At the same time the government invited in large numbers of new people who owned cars and vans or aspired to do so, greatly adding to the vehicle stock and the congestion problems. Around 85% of all our journeys are made  by road transport. The success of privatisation of the railways in its first decade in boosting passenger numbers has  been followed by substantial rail investment which has also helped boost capacity and travellers. Because the initial base of 6% of journeys was so modest, even with good railway growth it was not possible to take the pressure off the roads by this means.

The Coalition government  recognised the problem of lack of roadspace,  but faced two difficulties in responding quickly. The list  of possible new road schemes ready to build was very short. It takes time to crank up good projects and get them through the design and planning phases. The government inherited a massive public deficit, and the one area the outgoing government had cut to make a start on deficit reduction was capital schemes.

The Chancellor has gradually reversed some of the capital cuts, and the Transport department is working away on more road schemes for the future. The country remains a long way behind where it needs to be. Every day there is a danger that a single incident will bring a major route network to a halt. One crash, or one section of roadworks can result in  long delays.

I will look at what could be done to improve both safety and vehicle flow on the roads we already have in a later post.

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90 Comments

  1. petermartin2001
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    “the one area the outgoing government had cut to make a start on deficit reduction was capital schemes.”

    Ok but how do you do your costing? Is it on the basis of the topline figures for the road cost? Is the thinking that if an amount of money is cut from the spending budget the deficit too will fall by the same amount?

    Or does the calculation take into account that most of that money will be spent on wages and salaries, either directly or indirectly in the form of payment for raw materials etc? Therefore some 30% or so comes back straightaway in taxes and NI contributions. The remainder will be spent repent and be subject to a whole range of taxes on every transaction. VAT, CGT, fuel excise, etc plus yet more income tax and NI contributions.

    In addition workers who are without jobs might find work. They not need welfare payments.

    So in the final analysis, that new by-pass may cost very little or even return a profit to the government!

  2. Mark B
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Why not limit the number of cars ?

    Just like so much of our Governments thinking, they assume that the solution is more of this and that. ie “we have more cars on our roads. So the solution must, be to build more roads.” Madness.

    Reduce the National Speed Limit to 50mph. Reduce the urban limit to 20mph. Place vehicle duty on Car Insurance, so that the insurer gives the car owner the Disc. The Insurer just gives the revenue a cheque and we can part close down a Government Department, saving some more money. We would also know who has and has not got insurance and, remove the vehicle from the road. How many uninsured and untaxed cars are there ?

    • Hope
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      What a lot of tosh to be talking about the last government when the inept current one wastes so much money instead of making spending cuts or meeting the needs of the public transport. This government could build a lot of roads for the price of HS2 or overseas aid on corrupt regimes.

    • Mark
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      I trust you are not a doctor, because you seem to prescribe coagulants for circulation problems, which would lead to the death of the patient.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted November 6, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Why not go the whole hog and require all motor cars to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag. Hey presto, full employment!

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    85% of journeys are made by car and this is despite the over taxation of cars, under provision of road space and parking and the large subsidies for public transport. Also despite the deliberate blocking of roads with red, anti car lights, largely empty bus lanes, bike lanes, large islands, “environmental areas” (that force you to drive further to get round them) and the governments/LEA motorist mugging cameras and other parking scams.

    The use of cars would be higher still and trains far less given a level playing field.

    Many dual carriage ways and motorways in the South East can have average speeds of less than 20 MPH even without any incidents and even outside “rush” hours, this just due to weight of traffic. Nearly all dual carriageways around London could be double deck roads just to cope with existing traffic. It is a huge waste of valuable peoples time and assets tied up pointlessly in Jams.

    The reasons people go by car are obvious, it is more convenient, still quicker in most cases, more comfortable, nearly always cheaper, you can carry heavy goods, and shopping, you can stop off on route, you can take passengers or pick them up or drop them off and it is often even greener too, you do not need to plan tickets and times much, you can change your plan and routes easily at the last minute.

    This all despite the huge fiscal/subsidy bias against them and huge deliberate under provision of road space.

    They also do not need professional drivers, security, absurdly complex ticketing systems, dedicated fenced in tracks and countless other staff/security. They cannot be brought to a halt by a few bolshy staff in some overpaid trade union. You can also travel at all hours and even on Christmas Day and you will probably need a car when you get there anyway.

    Above all you do not have to suffer the endless idiotic announcements and can alway find a seat.

    Trains (when track, connection trips, staff, ticketing and average occupancy are considered) are not even good for CO2 output. If that is you are still concerned about the C02 hugely exaggerated hell on earth “Government & BBC think” new religion.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      So once again from the Cameron government it is hugely high and vastly increasing tax rates to day and the promise of jam tomorrow, but only after he has left office.

      I see Nicky Morgan has been doing he BBC think woman hour bit on the gender pay gap.

      She gave three reasons why the was a gender pay gap but the real ones are:
      Woman on average tend to study maths and science far less.
      They are often less motivated by money and sensibly make other work life balance choices often for family reasons.
      At a given age they usually have had less experience due to taking time off for their family.

      There is no discrimination against them in general they are paid the market rate. A rate that is lower than it needs to be due to the size of the bloated government and idiotic and vague employment laws. If they were paid less another company could just employ women and out compete the other mixed gender companies easily.

      Woman without children now tend to earn more than men do anyway on average (often in the state sector).

      • Iain Gill
        Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

        Also women on average are prepared to work away from home far less, work weekends far less, and so pick up less experience. They are also on average prepared to take far fewer risks with their career. I tried explaining this to the HR director of a big British company and she just couldn’t understand my point, and said that my views were counter the law…

        Indeed its the men with much more experience (due to working away from home on more complex projects, working weekends putting more hours in, and so on) who are getting paid the same as women who are in reality being discriminated against.

        Sheer lack of real delivery experience in our supposed leaders shows big time

        • Lifelogic
          Posted November 8, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          Indeed equal average gender pay can only be achieved by active discrimination against men or huge genetic engineering to give men and women have the same aims and interests in life.

          I am all in favour of woman doing everything on a fair basis but only on merit. Not the active legal discrimination against men that we have now. You clear sensible argument is something the bbc think and woman’s hour types seem totally unable to grasp.

  4. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Congestion on roads is a major problem. The more people we have in this country, the more children will be around, the more youngsters will buy cars and the roads will be even more congested. As soon as more networks are in place , they will be full to the brink.We are fighting a losing battle until we take control or our own Country

    On a positive note there has been a little improvement on the roads as far as repairs are concerned this last couple of years, but the standards of workmanship in some areas are still not what they should be . In small estates like mine there are holes in the pavements and a hotch potch of dangerous changes from one small tarring job to another.

    What has been lost is a generalised pride and respect for anything public .Buildings and roads that are new are not necessarily good. Conserving what we have and maintaining to good standards shows that we care about infrastructure and the generations who have toiled to build our Country up. Perhaps we should concentrate on controlling those drivers who throw take away packages, can and cigarettes out of the car windows and teach them respect for property which is not simply a private pursuit.

  5. Mark W
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Roadworks.

    Pass a law making temporary traffic lights require the need to be manually operated by a person at all times. Why:

    1) a person can see the flow better than automation.

    2) half these lights are unnecessary and left up long times because of blatant awkwardness on behalf of the actual people on site. There would be a massive insentive to take them down if the individuals concerned were faced with the prospect of taking it in turns to stand with them from 4pm Friday to 10am on Monday.

    3) the automation is never set correctly on them at the start of any works.

  6. Richard1
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    3,000 people a year die on British roads. Road safety is a much bigger issue than eg Ebola or global warming for us. The govt should not be wasting £70bn+ on the political gesture of HS2/3 but should rather be looking at spending a fraction of that making congested 2 lane dual carriage ways and other unsafe roads fit for use. We need to make much more use of private toll roads. One thing France does much better than the UK is a workable national motorway network – because its private money.

    The most avoidable deaths by far are on rural roads where the speed limit is an absurd 60 mph, where 40mph would be a safe max.

    • stred
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      60 is safe in long straight roads with no junctions. Can’t drivers be trusted to drive according to conditions?

      • Richard1
        Posted November 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        Apparently not if you look at the casualty stats

    • Mark
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      There are other ways to solve the problems for rural roads (I assume you don’t drive them, else you would know that those that carry truck traffic are usually reduced to 40mph by the limit on truck speeds). I suspect few town drivers get much experience of rural driving these days, so they tend to be unaware of how to drive them safely: the accident statistics show that. Better signage would help, as would increasing truck speeds (they would of course continue to brake for the corners).

      • Richard1
        Posted November 6, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        Much better signage and 40mph or lower speeds on dangerous bits would help a lot. Lets spend 1% of the HS2 money on that – it would be far better spent.

        • Mark
          Posted November 7, 2014 at 12:49 am | Permalink

          Some effort on re-engineering and repairs might be even more helpful. Signs can also warn interactively of hazards – e.g. detecting oncoming traffic around a corner or in a junction. Lower speed limits are not generally required (indeed, many of my local roads have already seen speeds cut by 20-30mph since I first drove them). We need to try to spread traffic across the road system, not encourage even more to rely on motorways.

  7. Mick Anderson
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    It would help if they spent some of the money they take from us for road repairs actually maintaining the existing infrastructure. All we seem to have around here is an endless patchwork of potholes, some of which have had tar trodden in as a “repair”.

    Properly maintained roads are much safer, more time- and fuel-efficient and far less stressful to drive on. The country (and countryside) would be a nicer place to be if those in charge actually listened to the motorists they are fleecing….

  8. alan jutson,
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    You are correct our roads cannot cope at present in an efficient manner.

    Far too little has been spent on proper road maintenance.

    Far too much has been spent on coloured tarmac, speed humps, chicanes, traffic lights at roundabouts, and general traffic obstruction schemes.

    I see our local authority (Wokingham) has just spend approximately £2,000,000 on constructing a two and a half metre wide, one and a half mile long, cycle track which runs alongside Earley Way, complete with a wooden fence, new curbs, and the repositioning of street lights, and cyclists still use the bloody road.
    It now seems like a custom-made running track for joggers and dog walkers.
    Meanwhile major potholes throughout the area still remain a hazard for cars and cyclists alike.

    Having spent 5 weeks in France this year, (and yes I know their finances are also in a bad way) the amount of new road construction they are putting in to keep traffic moving, puts our programme to shame.

    We are but a small overcrowded Island, thus we need to be able to move people and goods around efficiently, and not build in obstructions which slows down such movement.

  9. Andyvan
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    “The list of possible new road schemes ready to build was very short”.
    Really? I can identify dozens of places where improvements could be made within 5 miles of my house. From replacing traffic lights with roundabouts to building flyovers to widening roads. A few small schemes make more difference sometimes than grandiose motorway projects yet they are not done. Near us millions were spent adding a fourth lane to a motorway which has succeeded only in allowing owners of big fast cars to jump a few places in the line of traffic crawling up a long hill then causing near pile ups when the extra lane ends only a mile up the road. If they’d spent the money on lots of small improvements on local roads we’d have seen a far better return on investment. Road planners seem to regard installing traffic lights (expensive) at every possible junction a good idea but whenever the lights stop working we see smoother and faster traffic flows.
    So we have a centrally (read badly) planned main road network that has money wasted on grandiose schemes, a local network dominated by planners that don’t seem to have ever used the roads they obstruct and politicans claiming there is nowhere to spend money on improvements whilst squandering millions. A system that typifies modern life in Britain.

  10. stred
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I have to do a lot of long distance travelling to properties which I am unable to sell, owing to CGT grabs. I usually try to travel early at 5am or after I have finished work at 6pm. On nearly every occasion, The main roads have been completely closed, with little warning and very long diversions with missing signing. On one occasion they took the whole dual carriageway on the A303 for surfacing and routed all traffic through Wincaton, with much traffic getting lost and a 30 minute delay. Next time the A35 was closed at Dorchester, then the whole 10 mile dual carriageway between Portsmouth and Chichester. They were re surfacing the roundabout at the end but took the whole streth to the next junction. There were announcements of other closures on the radio, which included the A1. There are long delays on the M23 now because, again they have taken the whole 3 lanes for 2 months.

    Perhaps it is because of H and S that they have to take up the whole road, but I suspect it is because they just find it convenient to get a closure and be able to run equipment around more easily. The cost to travellers in time and fuel is enormous when added up.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      The cost to travellers is indeed huge but these costs do not fall on government nor on the road repair companies, indeed the government even benefits from extra tax on the extra fuel wasted in the jams they cause.

      Oh and you can roll over/defer the CGT into suitable EIS investments and get income tax relief sometimes too on the same investment.

    • ChrisS
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Our host has highlighted the complete failure of the CGT strategy started by Brown and continued at the insistence of Clegg.

      Revenue is down because people like Stred and I are forced to hold on to properties because of the excessive 28% tax charge. Many BTL landlords would like to sell. They planned their own strategy on buying and holding their properties for the long term where they could provide security for tenants and improve their properties over time through investing in them, often via mortgage funding. That also benefits the economy and tenants alike.

      They planned to sell after 10 years or so when they would benefit from taper relief which Brown did away with. The coalition then raised the rate to a flat 28% with the result that the tax take has plummeted.

      The problem often is that after paying off a mortgage the owner can often be left with insufficient funds to pay the 28% tax charge. Many thousands of owners are unable to sell because of this.

      Should Labour win, especially if they are aided and abetted by Clegg and co, they seem committed to making the situation even worse. This has to be based on pure greed and envy as they must know that Capital Gains Tax receipts will take another dive and owners will be unable to release even more properties into the market.

      We urgently need a return of Taper relief, ideally linked to a reduction in the rate.
      This would do a lot for the housing market and benefit the economy as new owners invest in their new purchases.

      • Mark
        Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        I have often argued that there should be a concession on CGT for landlords selling to owner-occupiers, precisely because of the effect you describe locking up property portfolios with a ratchet effect.

    • Mondeo Man
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Stred – Yesterday we broke the cardinal rule of locking the door behind us without taking the key.

      For this the Govt fined us £30 on top of an already unwelcome locksmith’s bill.

      Nice.

      (60% of my wife’s take home pay for that day.)

      • stred
        Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

        Do you mean VAT on the bill?

        • Mondeo Man
          Posted November 6, 2014 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Stred

          I don’t understand why VAT applies to essential – non luxury – emergency repairs (home security in this instance) For that matter to car repair bills for cars used for commuting – or VAT on the petrol.

          Surely we should be encouraged to go to work – not be penalised for it.

    • Timaction
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      I didn’t know that 85% of all our journeys are by road. So why are the Government spending £billions on HS2 and 3 and not our roads network?
      EU TENS anyone?

      • ChrisS
        Posted November 6, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        EXACTLY

        HS2/HS3 will be used by less than 5% of the population yet HS2 ALONE will cost EVERY household in the land £2000 !

        In the meantime we desperately need some new motorways, not least along the South Coast

        Ridiculous !!!!

  11. stred
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    When the Agency does decide to do something to relieve congestion, they often seem to go for over ambitious schemes, which are expensive and take very long times to construct. For instance, at Stonehenge all that is needed is a dual carriageway in a cutting with a flyover at ground level instead of a roundabout. But they keep trying for a mile long tunnel with permanent lighting and energy waste. The enquires wil again cost as much as building a simplified scheme and last for years.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Indeed start with getting rid of many of the anti-car traffic lights, islands and the environmental zones and build a few selected flyovers/unders and new bridge or two over the Thames.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      It doesn’t even need to be a dual carriageway. You are only talking about a mile and half of cutting from just east of Stonehenge to the roundabout west of Stonehenge. A long straight carriageway would be quite sufficient, doing minimum damage to the landscape. And no one would be slowing up to admire the view. But I suppose it’s all too simple.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      All Stonehenge needs is the road widening into a dual carriageway. There is loads of room – no buildings in the way, just buy a bit of land off the farmers and whack it in.

      All the A303 needs is to be dual carriageway all the way to Exeter.

      Driving from Exeter down into Cornwall is a joy these days – now that it is dual carriageway nearly all the way to Bodmin.

      If there is some sort of half imagined ‘issue’ with Stonehenge – just pick the stones up and stick them up half a mile away. They’re just a pile of rocks our ancestors hauled into place – they are not that interesting.

      • stred
        Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        You will have the Druids after you. The tunnel is to keep the Mother Earthers good kerma during the solstice and keep the heritage industry happy.

  12. DaveM
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    JR: “the government invited in large numbers of new people who owned cars and vans or aspired to do so, greatly adding to the vehicle stock and the congestion problems”.

    Notice once again that the leftist papers are trying to push the economic benefits of EU migrants. I’d like to see both sides of that though. £20 Bn into govt coffers which goes straight into public services to account for the extra demand perhaps? Certainly not into infrastructure or transport systems – hence the 3rd world state of the roads in most towns and cities, and the fact that you can’t sit down on a train that you’ve paid through the nose for. Or maybe that £20 Bn will go to Calais to help the migrants who the BBC are again trying to make us pity.

    OT – more annoyingly – Labour’s mouthpiece now always refers to “the English Regions” rather than England (unless they’re talking about a sports team, in which case it’s “the English team”). Any chance someone like you can set them straight on that one?

  13. Mike Kingscott
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    My journey to work in Nottingham is about 10 miles, and can take up to an hour. This is a parlous state of affairs, but it should be recognised that some councils actively cause congestion by cutting off lanes via chevrons.

    There was, previously two lanes passing under the A52 to get to Spondon. Some joker thought it would be a good idea to cut that down to one lane, causing horrendous traffic jams. It stayed liked that for a few years, until common sense prevailed and it was put back to two lanes.

    When I travel down the road to the M1 through Risley, if the M1 is backed up southbound, there is at least a 3/4 mile tailback down the approach road. This is because the road is not wide enough to allow the M1 lane past the two queuing lanes of traffic. I believe it is deliberately so, and funnily enough, there are chevrons painted as well.

    All the housing schemes don’t help either, as people are expected to use the existing road network.

    The car is a symbol of freedom, and I strongly suspect that is why the Left hate it and wish to see it snarled up.

    • oldtimer
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      I noticed that there is a long stretch of the M1, near you or perhaps further north where the speed limited is arbitrarily reduced – either to a fixed 50 or 60mph. This appears to be the work of the local branch of the Green Blob. It serves no useful purpose, adds to congestion by causing traffic travelling at 70mph to back up causing a dangerous concertina effect. This is not the same as the variable speed limits operated around the M25, which usually work extremely well and sensibly in my exerience.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Exactly it is congestion by government design. The argument was that if they build efficient roads they would just fill up with yet more cars which is not really true. If they can get where they want to in 30 mins instead of an hour and a half they will be on the road for much less time. Anyway who want to spend their lives in endless hours of driving?

      It there were more parking places too they would not have to drive round and round looking for them.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        The other thing constricting the roads is encouraging cyclist to push in front of cars at traffic lights thus holding them all up as they set off.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Indeed the left would like everyone to travel by train and get say 50 train passes a year when they apply in triplicate, go to re-education classes and queue for 6 hours to pick them up.

      This for all other than government and union officials who would get a Lada car and a Zil lane pass.

      Rather as the EU officials who get a special tax/pension regime and the state sector who get pensions of about 6 times the average private sector pension.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      The M3 coming out of London is 3 lanes. At the point where it passes under the M25, some complete and utter idiot has decided it should go down to one lane – permanently. Why build 3 lanes in the first place?

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      I think you have put your finger on it – the “establishment” regard cars as “a bad thing” and begrudge any money being spent on roads or motorists. As a result they also could not care less about the extra time and financial penalties they impose on drivers – as an example a few years ago they told us all to buy diesel cars (less carbon generation)and now they are going to penalise us for doing so (as they have higher emissions). As a smaller example, where I live (Hammersmith) they are planning to bring in a 20mph limit in residential areas with loudmouth cycling representatives being to the fore in demanding this, never mind the fact that cyclists are the ones who flout the existing laws continuously, they get what they want because cycling is “good” and drivers are ignored.

    • philip haynes
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Over my twenty odd years living in London, until I left a few years back, countless junction were endlessly remodelled according to the latest fad or fashion & clearly at vast expense. They were virtually always worse for traffic flows after the work had been completed. Not to mention the congestion caused during the work. Often the new bollards and islands would only last a week or two before some vehicle knocked them out.

      Still someone was clearly profiting from it all.

  14. ChrisS
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Living in Dorset, the only county in England without a motorway, we desperately need to upgrade the A31 to motorway standards and ensure that every mile between Ringwood and Exeter is at least a dual carriageway.

    It’s a disgrace that the major South Coast trunk Road has many sections of single carriageway, some with only 30mph speed limits.

    The same applies from the strategically important route from Dover to Southampton.

    • Mick Anderson
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Dorset, the only county in England without a motorway

      Apart from Cornwall, Suffolk, Norfolk….

      However, your point is reasonable – they should have continued the M27 in both directions along the coast

    • stred
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      I have a feeling that there is a sort of conservative but green anti- transport, anti-change county set who will prevent any upgrading of the A35 or the A27 in Sussex anywhere near expensive parts where the rich superannuated live.

  15. JimS
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    In Birmingham there was a single track Bailey bridge that must have been in place for 50 years or so. Traffic was controlled by lights at each end.
    A few years ago the bridge was replaced by a modern twin track bridge so the lights were no longer needed. However the local authority then installed a system of chicanes on both sides of the bridge so now the traffic backs up three times as far as before, obstructing side roads during the busy periods.
    Then there are the unused cycle lanes that stop vehicles getting past right-turning traffic – the list goes on.
    You politicians do hate us don’t you?

  16. Mondeo Man
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Minor country A roads have a disproportionately high number of fatalities and serious personal injury accidents. Risk is exacerbated by collision with trees, overturning on steep grass verges and overtaking on blind bends. Remoteness affects emergency response times.

    Maximum speed of 40 mph with averaging cameras would work really well to make a vast improvement to Britain’s accident stats.

    ——

    “The success of privatisation of the railways in its first decade in boosting passenger numbers…” Let’s not forget that high petrol costs, congestion charges, high parking costs (removal of parking) as well as over population have contributed to demand for the railways.

    The railways aren’t the pleasure they should be with too much crowding, expensive tickets and too many delays.

    ——

    The push for automatic driver culpability in cycle vs car accidents is disturbing. It will result in a explosion of cash-for-crash fraud.

    *Off topic*

    Rolls-Royce lay off of highly skilled engineers. The UK is keen on subsidising unemployed people and foreigners doing ‘cheap’ work in the UK…

    How about our goverment subsidising skilled and hard working people in this instance ?

    • stred
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      Another refinery going at Milford Haven too. Cheaper to make stuff abroad where Gordon and Dave haven’t been in charge.

  17. John E
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    If you want to help locally you could push for the third bridge over the Thames at Reading that has been blocked by South Oxfordshire for the last 50+ years.
    I read that your next leader Mrs. May is getting behind the issue.

  18. Mike Wilson
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    The biggest thing you could have done was make an argument that an ever increasing population was causing all of us to sit in traffic jams more often (it takes me 45 minutes some mornings to get into Bracknell – just 4 miles away – a journey that, 20 years ago, used to take 15 minutes) and that the biggest, simplest, cheapest, most effective way of immediately taking pressure off our roads was to stop people coming into the country for a while. But, no, you have sat on your hands for years allowing the country to fall about around our ears and done nothing.

    • alan jutson,
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Mike

      Its the same congestion going the other way on the A329 due to the miss phasing of traffic lights at Winnersh crossroads and Sainsburys entrance.

      Most mornings the traffic backs up from Winnersh as far as the Woosehill roundabout, about a one mile crawl.

      A321 from Finchampstead into Wokingham similar congestion at peak times.

      Indeed congestion in so many areas now, almost pointless going out before 9.30 unless you have to.
      Can’t wait for the 40,000 new people to arrive in the area to fill up the new houses that have in the past few years been given planning permission.

  19. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Most road changes I see have made car travel slower and more difficult and I think that is exactly what most politicians want. Local roads have been narrowed and capacity reduced.
    The nearest major scheme to where I live started in July and is the work on the M60 to make it a ‘smart’ motorway due to last until 2017 (that year again). The only impact so far has been the immediate imposition of 50mph for many miles and the erection of average speed cameras, no evidence of any other work is apparent other than the dumping of multi-coloured traffic cones. Therefore for 3 years the traffic flow on this road will be constrained and periodically further constrained, at the end of which I expect there will be nothing more than a multitude of additional permanent cameras to impose more speed limits and periodic access to the hard shoulder. Three years and an estimated cost of £208 million for that?

    • stred
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      They have done this on the latest M25 widening, where the hard shoulder has been taken away. The new infra red incredibly expensive system is invisible and if the limit changes from 70 to 40, as happened on my last late night journey during light traffic, you are up for a fine and points, within seconds. Why not cause a pile up?

    • Mondeo Man
      Posted November 6, 2014 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Ditto

      New averaging cameras where we are. A temporary 50 mph restriction on a 70 mph dual carriageway for no apparent reason.

      I think I may have been caught out. I came off a slip road and the first few speed signs weren’t exactly clear – awaiting the post.

      (We don’t break speed limits deliberately, you know.)

  20. Excalibur
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The road system in Britain suffers like most other facets of life here from too much interference by overweening bureaucracy, There is too much policing, too many road closures (for a multiple of reasons), too many speed limits, too little concession to the motorist’s common sense, too many roundabouts that are inimical to orderly traffic flow, and too many people with opinions on what other people ‘should’ be doing.

    • Jagman84
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Excalibur, I think the phrase you are looking for is “Too much Socialism”.

  21. Know-Dice
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    To pre-comment on your “later post” 🙂

    You only have to look in your own back yard to see the kind of waste our councils have made on their “pet” schemes.

    Shinfield – £800,000+ now there are always queues and has not contributed to road safety.

    Lower Earley Cycleway – £800,000+ and the cyclist don’t even want to use it, again on justifiably safety reasons.

    https://www.fixmystreet.com/report/540803

    “I do not wish to use the new cycle lane provided, as I ride too fast and this is also dangerous for what few pedestrians use this path”

  22. Man of Kent
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I suspect that many of your readers will have shared experience similar to mine.

    A while back now I was the General Manager of a very modern tropical agriculture enterprise.

    Disaster struck- the crop failed due to two new diseases.

    We had a major problem to keep the company going.

    The cost cutting was challenging ,while the capital structure was sorted out..

    The broad policy was :

    Reduce the headcount ,particularly expats.
    Promote nationals.

    Stop all capital expenditure with a pay back of more than a year.

    Greater operational efficiency.

    When the Coalition came to power in 2010 its principal policy was to eliminate the deficit by 2015.
    A bonfire of the quangoes was also foretold.

    I was appalled when very early on a capital expenditure commitment of £50 bn or whatever was made for HS2 with a pay back period of decades [if ever].
    There were plenty of roads in Kent needing work eg A21 [ now underway, thank goodness,] with much shorter pay back periods.

    The Coalition simply gave up on deficit reduction and began to conflate ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’
    The bonfire never took place.
    The economics were never spelled out to the nation.

    My pension then went up by 5.2% as did benefits generally when I was quite prepared to endure a cut in order to see us with a balanced budget.

    OK ,national budgets are not the same as corporate or family budgets but they are not so very different either given the enormous interest payments we now have on a debt of £1.3 trillion and the threat of deflation ever present to make matters worse.

  23. Leslie Singleton
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Implement the long-promised motorway-isation of the A1, else at least get rid of the chicanes and bottlenecks

  24. Ian wragg
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    The stupidity of the political class knows no bounds
    As you say we cancel the roads programme and potentially waste £70 billion on high speed rail.
    We also cancel building any reservoirs and increase the population by a quarter of a million annually.
    Add the closing of perfectly good coal fired power stations and you get game set and match.
    Is there any wonder people are against the liblabcon

  25. JM
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    We could all help ourselves a bit more. I wonder how many journeys by car are of a distance of one mile or less. I appreciate that this will have little effect on volumes of traffic on trunk roads, which is what the main article is about, but the traffic in Nottingham, which is where I live, is massively contributed to by the school run, for example. I never cease to be amazed how many parents drive their children a distance that could easily be walked to the benefit of all.

  26. Dan H.
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Sir,
    Do you know if much work has been done on the utility or otherwise of bus lanes? I am aware of the experiment in Liverpool whereby almost all bus lanes were abolished; this caused no deterioration in traffic speeds, and even a slight increase much of the time.

    Anecdotally, using the Google traffic system, the A664 Rochdale Road in Manchester has gotten much more congested of late, as Manchester City Council are installing a bus lane onto much of this road. Formerly, much of the road was two-lanes in each direction; the reduction to one lane has caused much queuing traffic in rush hour. I would also be skeptical as to how much of a saving this is for busses, as the road narrows to single carriageway at several points, which with the increased traffic will act as choke points that impede busses.

    A final point to bear in mind is that bus lane fines, along with a lot of other minor road traffic fines, go directly to council coffers. Clearly the temptation there is to use these fines as a source of revenue. Would it not be a good idea to remit all fines of any sort directly to central government instead of to councils, in order to remove this temptation?

  27. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Well, on Monday afternoon my wife had to drive from Maidenhead to Caversham and back on a route which avoids going into Reading, and she said she really needed a helicopter to make that trip … as for getting through Reading itself, that’s best only attempted in the small hours unless you have a lot of patience … some weeks ago multiple roadworks made it almost impossible. Yet just like the last government this government still wants to pack more and more people into the Thames Valley, and swears blind that this is for our benefit …

  28. David Cockburn
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    There is something which can be done about this problem immediately and at low cost. When there is an accident with injury the police focus on getting a conviction and so treat it as a crime scene. As a result they close the road for hours with no consideration for other travellers. If they were to prioritise getting the road open quickly we would have far fewer hold ups.
    This will not, of course, remove the need for investment in more and better roads.

    • Excalibur
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      I concur, David. Over policing extends to many other facets of our lives, but is particularly prevalent over road closures.

  29. acorn
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    It is worth a look at the DfT accounts. The Highways Agency is being corporatised, usually the step before it is privatised. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/324031/dft-annual-report-2014-web.pdf

    Warning! To those of a nervous disposition. Do not read the “Departmental Remuneration Report” (page 88), particularly the ministerial salary and pension contributions, which are in addition to their MP salary and pension goodies.

    • stred
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps all the road closures are to boost Highways Agency financial performance and salaries+bonuses. Same as happened with the railway system and G.Brown’s publicly owned private company. Great for the ex civil servants.

  30. Javelin
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I hope it is realised that every question of Government spending will lead back to the minimum £120 billion immigration has cost us.

    The questions will be

    (1) why didn’t the Government tell us the truth about the cost of immigration. The accusation will be the the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems have basically not sought the truth in case they are called racist. They effectively put themselves in the same position as the police and social services in Rotherham

    (2) any question of taxes will come back the question of immigration. My taxes would have lower if … we were told the truth.

    (3) Any question of public spending will come back to immigration. My children would not have to pay for university if we hadnt had to pay for immigration.

    (4) Any question of democratic mandate will come back to immigration as people will say the the main political parties hid the truth and didn’t let the democratic process take place.

    I believe the this will hurt the three parties deeply. I would not want to be a politician for all the money in the world over the next year.

  31. Robert Taggart
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    This ‘anorak’ would support more road / motorway building – for the sake of an easier ride when ‘coaching’ !
    Where to start ?…
    The A1 should be six lanes Lundun >< Sheffield desperately needs a decent direct road.
    Then there be all those small towns without even a by-pass – up our way – Bakewell, Buxton, Congleton, Glossop, Leek, Macclesfield, Matlock…

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      The message appeared to go awry…
      The A1 should be six lanes Lundun >< Sheffield just needs a decent road – period !

  32. Alte Fritz
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Like many, I travel to work by car because the rail network has not recovered from the hammering it sustained fifty years ago. I want more investment in opening up closed routes where possible and improving what remains. As a driver, I resent the fact that drivers are treated as the enemy by highways planners.

    Public transport is vital for mass transit. Cars are necessary for large parts of our lives. Those in power seem determined to make me miserable however I travel.

  33. Mockbeggar
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    If only the govt. would abandon this HS2 nonsense and get on with improving the road network life would be a lot easier and a great deal of time and money would be saved for the ordinary traveller. Roads make money for the govt. through high levels of taxation’ whereas railways cost money since the revenue never repays the capital outlay, interest and maintenance.

    Replace HS2 with a road widening of the M1 and M4/M6. It would be cheaper and more useful. Use the balance to improve road and rail (possibly) connections between nothern cities.

  34. They Work for Us?
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Motorists contribute vast funds to the exchequer that are nearly all appropriated to spend on something else.
    On the principle that politicians are employed by and work for us, and that he who pays the piper calls the tune, we should have a first class road system, lots of free parking or free short term parking to encourage the use of local shops. Politically correct restrictions and congestions like many traffic lights should be removed.
    Our local council (Eastleigh) has put “Tackling Climate Change” on all it’s signs. No wonder their roads are badly maintained.

  35. BobE
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Everything we use and eat is carried by road. Rail is an out of date process due to the triple load problem. The A34 should be converted to a motorway and connected to Dover (Across the top of Southampton) This would take many trucks off of the M20,M25. as many trucks are simply trying to get around London.
    Hydrogen is the future road fuel. We can crack it from water with nuclear power.
    Bob

  36. Edward2
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Recently I’ve noticed a number of busy junctions in the Midlands being altered in the same odd way.
    It happens at traffic lights and roundabouts which on approach have two or three lanes. Recently they have been altered to only one lane for straight ahead, with the left lane made into a left turn only and the right lane right turn only, despite the vast majority of vehicles wanting to go straight on.
    This has led to big queues for the centre lane and increased congestion.
    I wonder if its all done deliberately to make the traffic worse.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      It is clearly deliberate (or perhaps hugely incompetent but I think not). A variation is the right turning lane and a bus lane on the left (usually empty) but with a motorist mugging camera. This so all the cars wanting to go straight on have to wait behind a single vehicle waiting for a gap to turn right at the lights.

      This causes really very good congestion. Perhaps only two cars getting through on each light change.

  37. They Work for Us?
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Further to Stred’s posting that the left hate motorists because the car is a symbol of freedom …….The left love to control, criticise, penalise (and fundraise) and the motorist presents an open goal for this.
    A week or two ago the results of a 1 year expt. in Liverpool? where bus lanes were removed, some traffic lights turned off and other restrictions removed reported an increase in throughput and no increase in accidents. A local authority official bleated that they had lost £750,000 in fines related to bus lanes and that the bus lanes and obstacles should be reinstated as cars had to be rigorously controlled on the grounds of safety.
    Local officials are another bunch who need reminding that they work for us!

    • stred
      Posted November 5, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Not my comment but here in Skidrow on Sea, the Greeenleaf paper claims that the introduction of the 20mph limit has cut road deaths and so the limit should be extended. There are flashing 20 sign al over now, however, no-one including police and buses- even bikes has been observing the limit. Either the figures have been fiddled or everyone has been driving more safely. The ‘gryratory, a roundabout nightmare with a filling station in the middle,’ has finally been made safer after 3 months of chaos. The removal of cones reveals another bike lane and the result is 2 lanes of traffic fighting for position.

      • Mondeo Man
        Posted November 6, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        Stred – Do they account for those motorists trying to make up time and crashing after they’ve left the 20 mph zone ?

  38. Iain Gill
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    abd.org.uk make complete sense to me

    having been prosecuted for going through a red light (caught on camera) while letting an emergency vehicle on blue lights through, and seen road thinning done repeatedly at great expense to reduce flow, seen the main road to the nearest A & E reduced from 2 lanes to one, and other such nonsense I give up on the plonkers running this country

  39. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    It is not a new observation that any stretch of motorway has at say 7am hundreds of plumbers, electricians, teachers, tinkers, tailors and candlestick makers travelling from CityA to CityB and frankly funnily persons of those trades and skills travelling in the opposite direction from CityB to CityA.

    I believe there has been some largely unsuccessful attempts by Local Authorities to urge their own departments and various companies to employ locally thus saving the nation fuel and individuals time and money criss-crossing like a Mad Hatter’s Best Practice Geo-Employment Scheme.

    Yes of course it can be argued that postcode employment schemes are discriminatory. But whatever the pros and cons of an employment policy or the likelihood of its progress, I feel that the Coalition’s determination and more so the Labour Party’s desire to form City-based development in the North making better links between identical geo-employment opportunities would compel even the Mad Hatter to call a halt and declare ” No, this is too Mad. Enough roads! “

  40. sm
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Whats the chance that driverless train technology could be soon be applied to road travel at lot quicker than some train lines can get built.

    • Mark
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      Vehicle automation is creeping up on us rapidly – and is probably the biggest contributor to improved road safety in recent years. Things like ABS make a substantial difference by reducing the severity of accidents, or even preventing collisions.

  41. Richard
    Posted November 5, 2014 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I do not believe our leaders are working on improving our road system.

    Reducing the UK’s total (not just electricity generation) CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 without the existence of the necessary technology to maintain current standards of living will mean that transport will need to be severely curtailed.

    Particularly when it is borne in mind that the UK’s population in 2050 is likely to be 40% to 50% higher in 2050 than it was in 1990.

    So, amongst other measures, I expect road pricing to be implemented to effect the required reduction in the use of both private and commercial vehicles and of course to provide additional funds for our leaders to spend.

    New or improved roads will not be needed even if they are affordable.

  42. Robert Taggart
    Posted November 6, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    OH NO !…
    Even our second attempt has come out wrong.
    There appears to be a glitch somewhere.
    Therefore, in simpler terms, oneself would wish to see…
    The A1 upgraded – throughout.
    An M5-M6 Black Country Western Bypass.
    A ‘decent’ Manchester – Sheffield road !
    Bypass roads for all those small towns without such.
    (fingers crossed!)

  43. The PrangWizard
    Posted November 6, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    We do need better main roads but let me comment on local roads. Where I live they are in very poor condition, some areas have more patches than original surface. We are of course not unique. They are generally not wide enough for present day traffic, and are probably the same width as they were when they were dirt roads The verges are severely damaged by large lorries and the enormous agricultural vehicles in use these days. Years pass before repairs are carried out, but then it’s only a patch. In the meantime we have to avoid six inch deep trenches.

    We’ve all heard the excuses, no money, task too big etc., etc., but we need more imagination and more freedom for those who think and care, to be allowed to act; it could be done. The routine of years is not good enough. Sections of roads must be widened, it would not mean wholesale replacement. Poor maintenance is evident everywhere, we know that pothole repairs are very often bodged – a scandalous waste of public money – but let me make a suggestion as to how many potholes could be prevented from appearing in the first place and safety improved. Cut down all trees and thick hedges which overhang and shade roads, especially of course those on south and west sides; roads here are often permanently wet in the winter. Roads can then dry, ice won’t form and the surface won’t break up. I expect howls of protest from the tree hugging fraternity.

    As they say, I could go on.

    • stred
      Posted November 7, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      There is a quango called English Nature which works hard to stop trees and hedgerows being removed or repositioned for human safety.

  44. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 6, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I certainly makes eminent sense to improve the safety and flow on the roads we already have.

    The sense in building new roads is a judgement call. If previous trends are taken as a pointer to the future the larger the population and the greater the need, or desire, to travel the greater the road capacity needs to be to cope. It has been obvious for more than a hundred years that, save where special circumstances apply, the best way to travel is by private road transport.

    But it is very questionable as to whether previous trends should be the basis of future plans. For a start, the thing that has not grown, and never will, is the land mass; the more space taken up by roads the less there is for everything else. Also, the investment on capital projects makes less sense when you have to borrow to invest.

    While roads, and rail, are needed for the transport of goods, people are different. We are rapidly entering into a world where the objective can be achieved without the journey. And this applies equally to social and well as business “objectives”.

    I think that if we want to improve road safety and flow we can do so by modest investment in very high speed internet connections for EVERYONE, as well as some road improvements where appropriate.

  45. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 6, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    There are many motorways and dual carriageways where daytime maintenance is impossible because losing a traffic lane would cause huge congestion. Night time maintenance is more expensive.

    And there must be thousands of junctions where queuing takes place that would benefit from extra capacity.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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