New economic policy Roads and railways

The UK has a large  backlog of missing transport capacity to catch up with. Labour cut the roads programme heavily on assuming office in 1997, and cut the total capital investment programme more in response to the 2008 banking crash. The Coalition made slow progress in reinstating the capital cuts.

The last government did concentrate on several very large schemes. It largely completed Crossrail in London, which had been planned under its Labour predecessor. It backed HS2, an expensive project to install a new London to the north route. It made early moves in favour of Crossrail 2. It was almost ready to make up its mind on  new airport capacity, but the politics of the Mayoral election in London followed by the referendum vote dealt a body blow to good intentions to make a decision. It delivered the Olympics projects, continued with various public sector led schemes in the North, and began the conversion of hard shoulders into running lanes on busy motorways.

So what should the new government do? It  needs to up the pace and scale of its response to the chronic lack of commuter rail capacity and main road space. It needs to review road junctions and railway crossing points, to improve safety and cut congestion.

Commuter capacity into and out of the main cities should be a railway priority. Removing bottlenecks on tracks, providing more track bypasses to allow more fast trains to intersperse the rush hour stoppers, taking out level  crossings and other hazards, extending train lengths and platforms, improving braking and cutting train weight to improve  acceleration and stopping times could all add substantially in total to commuter capacity.

So should more freight train activity be a priority. That requires more single waggon marshalling and more branch lines and sidings in modern industrial parks. It also needs more track capacity. Improved signalling throughput the network can assist in providing more  freight and commuter capacity.

On the existing A and B road network the government needs to work with Councils and provide more money for improved junctions. More segregation of right turning traffic and of cycles can improve safety and speeds through junctions. Switching more traffic lights to roundabouts can also assist flows.

 

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73 Comments

  1. David Thompson
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Would be a big help if the government gave councils ring fenced money to resurface roads. Especially in rural areas. This would improve travel times and reduce accidents.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I might consider getting out my bike again.

  2. Antisthenes
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Capital projects are long term when it comes to increasing economic activity and as the BoE are suggesting we need to stimulate the economy now an investment in dealing with the curse of pot holes would be a good place to start. It needs about 10 billion I believe.

    Much of your wish list the private sector would not touch partly because they are not economically viable and partly because government has not created an environment that is conducive to entrepreneurs wishing to tackle it without subsidies. The rail network is particularly prone to this and so is the road system. Neither needs to be they started out as private enterprises. Perhaps looking at how that worked and how we can return to that would solve many of the problems facing the North and the South East.

    It would need a total cultural change and I cannot see that happening. The NHS that is crying out to be privatised and cannot be is an example of how short sighted we all are.

  3. oldtimer
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    OT: the government’s decision to defer a decision on Hinckley Point until it has completed a further review is welcome. As it stands it is not based on a sound financial case; add in the technical risks and it becomes even less appealing. My hope is that the government has the gumption to cancel it and to put in place a new energy policy which eliminates wasteful subsidies and enables the proven, competitive alternative of gas fired generation. I believe that the case for small scale nuclear energy stations (based on Rolls Royce technology) is being examined; if feasible it could be added to the energy mix.

    Let us hope that we can look forward to more rational decision making from the new government.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      totally agree Oldtimer. The French use this kind of nuclear facility. Smaller and cheaper. Hinkley is too expensive. Think of the power stations we could have built by now instead of chucking money at wasteful, intermittent, wildlife destroying wind farms. The developers must be laughing their heads off. I know one developer, after going to see government advisers laughed on the way out saying that they were glad these people were so gullible. How many times does government have to be told wind and solar will not do the job. We have to have reliable, constant power. Get on with it and ignore the green loons. Get tough with the protesters at potential fracking sites.

  4. Ian Wragg
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Start by cancelling the ludicrously expensive HS2 and Hinckley Point power station.
    Use the money to upgrade the existing road and rail networks. Resurfacing some of the trunk roads would be a start.

    • bigneil
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      The small town of Chesterfield seems to have got either a diversion of HS2 or a “spur” line off the proposed main route. How many more towns are going to do the same? More stations, more stops – less “High Speed”. Then all we (eventually) end up with is a slightly faster but very expensive train – or – in plain English – -a massive waste of cash we haven’t got. Never mind, hopefully it will be cancelled, but all the consultants will still be rich enough from this folly – -and that’s the main thing to them. Pocket and Waste. Something this country excels at.

      • Anonymous
        Posted July 30, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        We won’t even reap the Keynsian effect as so much of it will be done by foreign contractors (Hinkley Point too.)

    • CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Ian Wragg:
      Yes. Cancel HS2 and Hinckley Point power station. 85% of EDF is owned by the French government and its French Pension Funds. I is issuing even more shares to cover its 12 Billion of the 18 Billion. It means that the British taxpayer and the British Utility bill payer will be keeping the French pensioners for the next hundred years. Good of us.
      The British Government is lousy at making proper deals even after the Brexit vote unless it means giving money to the EU, and more, and more.

      • Bob
        Posted July 30, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        @CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON

        “The British Government is lousy at making proper deals “

        You can say that again.

        I can understand that the best deal makers go into commerce, but why is the British govt so inept by comparison with the govts of other countries?

    • Mockbeggar
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      1. Cancel HS2: I agree.

      2. Hinckley Point: I agree. Thank goodness the new administration is having last minute second thoughts about this. They should scrap it and place orders as soon as possible with Rolls Royce to produce much smaller, factory built, nuclear power plants as they already do for nuclear subs. Also, research funding for Thorium nuclear power plants should be increased substantially.

      3. Upgrade existing roads and rail: I agree. Rail investment, as JR says, should be concentrated mainly on improvement of existing track to make better use of it at peak times, building sidings and rail heads for freight transport and resurrecting the experimental work British Railways was doing 50 odd years ago to have independent powered unmanned freight wagons travelling at off-peak hours (especially at night). When this experiment was being made, we had no computing power at all.

    • stred
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      The UAE have ordered 4 reactors from S.Korea which will have an output greater than Hinkley Point and cost less. An article from the World Nuclear Assn puts the cost of electricity at a quarter of gas, and this is in a gas producing country. Alternatively, the AP1000 Japanese design is due for approval next year in the UK. This is well tried and less costly, while having shorter construction times. According to some engineers the mistake with Hinkley was caused by the Libdem ministers who went from anti-nuclear to pro and believed anything EDF told them, including interest rates of 10%, when it was half this elsewhere and even lower more recently. Let’s hope the new ministry has some numerate civil servants and engineers.

      http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/united-arab-emirates.aspx

    • ian wragg
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Let’s hope that this latest move is the final stake in the Hinckley Point project.
      Paying a premium of 10% on financing when long term government debt is about 2.5% and giving EDF a blank cheque was always a non starter.
      Let’s just hope this is the first move in a real Tory government and we can start benefitting British industry at last.
      Should be a good sign for the EU, we won’t be p….d about now the posh boys are dust.

      • stred
        Posted July 30, 2016 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        I found this comment today by an engineer who has worked out the true cost of Hinkley Point EPR after paying the Decc inspired ‘contract for difference’. Note that the cost of the offshore windfarms about to be built in the North Sea will be even higher at £152 instead of £92.50 +inflation.

        July 30, 2016 at 11:10 am

        I calculate the Hinkley contract for difference, CfD, subsidy paid by consumers in higher prices over 35 years at $48bn. I assume 92% capacity utilization and wholesale electricity prices of £40/MWh. An extra £21/year for every person in Britain. Hinkley will be 7% of our electricity. Scale it up that CfD for all electricity and it’s £304/year extra for everyone. Some CfD are more expensive than Hinkley. I suppose DECC thought they got a wonderful deal at £92.5/MWh because offshore wind was awarded a CfD up to £152/MWh.

        We’re abolishing the market with electricity decarbonization. Everything becomes a CfD. We’ve kept the worst bits of capitalism but got rid of its saving grace : market prices as a means to allocate resources leading to greatest efficiency. It’s the mindless way these policies are pursued that frightens me. Not any single deal, but the effect the totality of deals will have. Conservatives should be very afraid of this but seem to be rushing in like blind lemmings.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Indeed simplifying train ticketing systems and getting some more ticket machines where they are needed would give 10 times the benefit of HS2 (in terms of time savings and convenience for customers) all for about one tenth of the cost of HS2.

      But politicians always like silly & totally uneconomic grand projects.

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Indeed switching traffic lights off improves the flow at many junctions (or filter left on red light systems). A lot of junctions are clearly designed to impede the flow of car and trucks and not to assist it. Many road and routes in town have been blocked with environmental areas, islands, use of no right and left turns and the likes. Thus using more fuel and causing extra pollution per useful mile travelled.

    Many road give more than half the road space to bikes and busses even where they form less than 10% of the actually road traffic.

    HS2 should clearly be cancelled, we need a runway each at Heathrow and Gatwick and a H/S shuttle rail link between them to create one 5 runway hub airport. We need more road capacity and some bridges and over and underpasses to relieve congestion. We certainly need another Thames crossing in East London. We also need more city commuting capacity at peak times. Better broadband can perhaps also help in reducing the need for some travelling.

    Yet councils cannot it seems even fill huge potholes efficiently. All the money going on staff wages, consultants, grand projects and pensions instead it seems.

    Cheap energy is also needed Hinckley C is not the right nuclear project at this time. Gas is the best, most cost effective and quickest solution currently.

    Another development that is unwelcome is the councils monopolising the on road parking for their shared vehicle schemes. The roads are just another cash cow to them very often with their parking/mugging systems.

  6. Ray Veysey
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Any and all rolling stock orders must be placed with British based companies, we have voted out of the EU therefore we should not use their EU loaded bulletin

  7. David Lister
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    John,

    After years of debate leading to inaction we have an energy infrastructure on its knees, and we now wake up to find that the Government is reviewing Hinckley Point yet again.

    What is the government’s policy on energy generation post Brexit, post COP?

    Our continued dithering makes us appear quite shambolic. Surely energy security and decarbonisation of our economy must take priority over building more roads.

    • acorn
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Which do you think will get built first?
      A major airport runway. A nuclear power plant. A nuclear missile submarine? Strangely, the last one required no stop and rethink delay whatsoever. Alas the USA perpetual war machine, was only concerned with the last one.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Why would be want to decarbonise our economy? There has been no warming for 18 years and anyway UK man made carbon emissions are insignificant in terms of overall emissions.

      The agenda should be gas mainly, then coal, some hydro & nuclear, (but not the absurdly expensive Hinkley Point C) and scrap all the subsidies (new or for existing) for wind, tidal, wave, biofuel and PV. If & when they can ever fund themselves fine. What is the point in subsidising duff intermittent and hugely expensive duff technology & nonsense, using tax payers money? Just to little the countryside in economic bird and bat killing white elephants, also to export jobs and CO2 emissions elsewhere?

      • David Lister
        Posted July 29, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        You can deny this if you wish, but you are irrelevant. The science is clear and we as the UK have already signed up to the Paris Accord.

        • Atlas
          Posted July 30, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          David,

          Is the science really that clear? I can cite many ‘clear science’ ideas in the past that we now treat as mild amusement at the follies of our forefathers.

        • Simon Platt
          Posted July 30, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          The science seems clear enough to me: the claims of anthropogenic global warming are fraudulent, and the great majority of our enegy needs should be met by burning fossil fuels, including coal, until safer nuclear energy sources can be developed.

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Agree Lifelogic. Sturgeon is obsessed with wind and Scotland is covered in the things. Nuclear is old and there are no plans for anything to take its place. Together they provide 70% of Scotlands power but Scotland is importing more and more power from England when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Time to stop funding intermittent power and invest in grown up facilities. We have to bite the bullet and do something sensible. The forecast now is for the world to cool.

        HS2 is an expensive vanity project. Roads in Scotland are full of large pot holes and the roads never get repaired properly. Just filled in only to become a larger pot hole in the future. The motorways down to England are a joke. Traffic jams and road works where nobody is doing any work going on for mile upon mile. Using the hard shoulder does not seem like a good idea long term to me. What happens when there is a pile up? How do the emergency teams get to the site? We need more lanes and more motorways especially the way our population is rising. We need old lines which were closed on the railways reopened for local journeys. We need to stop thinking so much and actually do something. The A27 in Sussex is dire. Since I was a child they have been talking about a by-pass around Arundel and Chichester but this still has not been done. Chichester got a by-pass eventually but it is so overused that we need another or more lanes. It can take 40 mins to do a 4 mile journey. Ridiculous. People are stressed out just getting to work and then they have the journey to look forward to coming home in the evening. This is being repeated all over the UK. You cannot keep building new homes for more people and cars and not improve the roads or transport facilities. If we don’t move forward and quickly, we will be left behind in the modern world.

        • anon
          Posted July 30, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          There is potential to match wind, tidal power with matching hydro storage or time shift facilities in Scotland/UK.

          Proven technologies with relatively quick build times. They would create employment in construction phase & provide income for pension funds.

          They would demonstrate the benefits of the UK to Scotland who we wish to feel at home in the UK They can of course if they wish leave the UK and pursue a different path

          It would reduce our imports of energy, whilst boosting employment activity in the UK.

          We should also seek to utilise geography & renewable assets elsewhere in the UK.

          These must be funded directly by government bonds rather than involving other skimming operations which add no value.

          Hinkley £30 billion for 3.2 GW maybe by 2033?.
          Thats £500 per person or say £2000 family.
          (50% of London Array 0.63 GW was sold for £644m , or £1.3bn per GW). Say windpower capacity factor is 25% thats £5.2 bn a GW.

          So for the same sum we could have equivalent of 6GW powered by wind or similar.

          That is a lot of decentralized power (and work) to be created spread over a much wider area. If the money is spent elsewhere in renewable grants.

          That is much better than negative interest rates to stimulate the economy and fairer. Providing energy direct to those that cant afford it.

          Oh and no nuclear waste. No major security risks. Even France and EDF may be relieved.

          Unless of course its an under the table subsidy to the EU.

  8. Margaret
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    what should be done indeed . We are bursting at the seams. I can only see things becoming worse as people have larger families and older people live longer. We can of course confine people to their homes, kill off the old ones , limit each family to 2 children , ensure that all workers can work from homes using IT and skype contact, We can develop a mono rail above the city or there again limit migration.

    Freight trains going so fast would help would reduce the amount of trucks on the motorways and roads. Better road systems in and out of Cities would help. I used to go into Manchester for night life and shopping sprees . Now If I get into the City I can’t get out due to all the one way systems and parking is impossible. The detours to get home are an extra 20 miles. Would going quickly help this overloaded situation ?

  9. The Prangwizard
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I would add to the mix of solutions far more tunnelling at crossroad intersections so through traffic is not delayed at all. This is easier today and to my mind superior to a raised bridge arrangement and could be done even at small crossings.

    The hard shoulder widening is sadly the small minded approach to problems which have plagued us for years. I accept it is better than nothing and why it has been done but we must switch to bigger thinking. For example the A34 from Winchester northwards needs widening – it should go from 2lanes to 4 each way and five on the busier stretches plus additional land at each side for more.

    There will be thousands of miles elsewhere like it. Short termism is a plague in the UK. Local roads have generaaly not been widened or rebuilt since the 1950’s.

    A proper solution to all these problems will take 100 years.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Excellent points on the railway. These mundane but vital improvements would be gratefully recieved by long suffering travellers in all constituencies, rather than doubtful improvements in few by virtue of HS2.

    Also there is nothing wrong with modern diesel traction. The environmental cost of electrifying the GWR has probably exceeded the improvements that could have been made with modern diesels times 10. The sort of vital improvements you list could have been implemented at a fraction of the cost and been here by now.

    I wish you’d have been in charge of decision making. People would be a lot happier by now.

  11. AndyC
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I still don’t know what we have got against using double decker trains in this country. Go pretty much anywhere else in the developed world and they are common. I don’t think the argument about bridges is very good, they have them abroad too. We have £50 billion for the HS2 white elephant, so surely we can rebuild some bridges, lower track etc to bring in double decker trains to ease urban congestion on the busiest lines.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      @AndyC; “I still don’t know what we have got against using double decker trains in this country.”

      In two words – Loading Gauge!

      We simply can not physically accommodate the sort of trains you talk of, to do so would mean almost all over bridges (were the trains pass under) would been to be rebuilt along with just about all tunnels. Even if we could design a double deck train to the UK loading gauge there is still the issue that you need longer station stops, British Rail (started before nationalisation in 1945) did try double deck trains on the south London commuter lines in the 1950s but came to the conclusion that adding two extra standard coaches to a train worked better and had cost benefits even were platforms had to be modestly extended.

      • David L
        Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        Of course, the old Great Central line from Marylebone to Sheffield and Manchester was built to continental loading gauge, but was largely closed north of Aylesbury. Around Loughbrough is now a heritage line I believe but the folly of the extensive closures of the 60’s has left us a poor relation compared to our European cousins railway-wise.

    • MDS
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      I’ve commented below about channel tunnel style trains that would also allow what you state here with double deck trains. The UK problem as you point out is loading gauge, IE bridges, tunnels etc. That is major infrastructure but far wiser investment that the HS2 speeds that will most likely require airport style security and therefore not end up any quicker

    • Atlas
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      AndyC,

      It is the tunnels that are the big expense. The original railway companies opted for different ‘loading gauges’ – ie differing width & height rolling stock – and built their systems accordingly.

  12. a-tracy
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    “and began the conversion of hard shoulders into running lanes on busy motorways”. By installing so called SMART motorways, however, the people running these aren’t smart the speeds are so slow people get frustrated stuck in the first two lanes whilst two others are empty for miles and miles. Seeing warnings of problems up ahead slow down when there aren’t any problems after you’ve been doing 40mph for hours on end (often in the early evening). There should be an internet or phone app to report SMART motorways that aren’t being smart. Giving the running of our road system to someone who goes on a long lunch break and doesn’t monitor the traffic problem is a big problem and I support hard-shoulder running to increase capacity as long as all the back up recovery services are there to get people off the motorway quickly which isn’t happening at the moment.

  13. turboterrier
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Transport ministers have got to start thinking outside the box.

    The size of the country dictates how much land can be used for transport services.

    Scrap HS2 and invest in a network of airships to follow existing canal, railway and road networks. I am sure that airships could lift heavy loads and take freight away from the roads therefore “being greener” take juggernauts off of the road. Individual companies could invest in the project and use either sides of the airship for advertising. For imports and export containers going to a sea port follow the coast line.

    Airships would be quieter than massive helicopter’s such as those used by our armed forces.

    It might be off of the wall, but then so was air travel a 125 years ago

    • Caterpillar
      Posted July 29, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Turboterrier,

      It would be interesting to see your cost comparison e.g. regards HS2 c.f. airships. The numbers I use below may be wrong, they are just a quick web search, just for total rail freight.

      The Lockheed Martin hybrid LMH1 will carry about 20 tonnes and cruise at about 100 kph. Assuming 20 hours cruising a day, I don’t know how long unloading/loading will take, that is 40000 tonne km. The number I found for rail freight in GB was 25 billion tonne km (a lot is coal), so if that is correct a full replacement of rail freight would need 625 000 air ships. Apparently the first order of LMH1 ships is for 12 at $480 million total, assuming the same pricing ‘we’ could get 625000 at about $25 trillion about one third of gross WORLD product. Now admittedly this is a bit finger in the air, you probably have better numbers, but I think this might not get past the NAO.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

        I should have added I am looking forward to HS2 construction actually starting and ideally being speeded up, a clear sensible national project.

  14. Jerry
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Apologies for the length of this comment.

    “and began the conversion of hard shoulders into running lanes on busy motorways.”

    The sooner the government stop this dangerous idea, reverting such conversions back solely for use as an emergency hard shoulder, the better. Yes the DfT minister was correct in stating that modern cars are reliable but a punctured tyre can befall even the best maintained cars and when modern cars do suffer mechanical and/or electronic management systems breakdown they tend to do so in ways that mean the only solution is vehicle recovery. Also if the hard shoulder is being used as a fourth traffic lane and a serious accident happens then all available lanes comes to a halt, preventing (or at least hindering) access by the emergency services. I do sometimes wonder if the planners at the DfT actually hold driving licences and if they do that they ever get out and about on or beyond the M25…

    “Switching more traffic lights to roundabouts can also assist flows.”

    It might work in some places but the biggest cause of congestion around here are 5 roundabouts in a row on a major road, traffic only flows properly at one junction and that is still controlled by traffic lights.

    As for railway planning, what the government should do is stop meddling in what politicians have never understood since the invention of the railways – our golden age of railways was when the government simply made investment funds available. This was during the 1930s, when the Chancellor abolished a passenger tax but allowed the four railway companies to keep the money to create employment and modernisation, then again the government made funds available in the mid to late 1950s that allowed BR to improve and speed up services by way of diesel and electric traction replacing steam etc.

    The real trouble is that now, apart from Network Rail, the system is to fragmented to allow proper planning – no Conservative government will even consider what really needs to be done I suspect, not even a modern version of the 1923 groupings. How do you tell company “A”, whose business model is fast freight, that their trains have less priority than those of company “B”, whose business model is the daily commuter, and that both have less priority than company “C” whose business model is high speed express passenger trains – but all three have to play second fiddle to essential maintenance and special traffic. On top of all that you seem to be suggesting a return to the old style pick up goods trains, even if you mean wagon delivery to private sidings that all takes traffic paths and time out of the working timetable, meaning less space for your beloved fast commuter trains etc.

    Of course, with the advent of high speed broadband, once BT actually delivers, there might be less need to centralise massive numbers of workers in one office block or in one area, when the product is digital data it doesn’t mater were the ‘factory’ is unlike traditional hard products like washing machines or motor cars.

    I have said this before, we do not need HS2, that is not to say that a new rail line shouldn’t be built but it needs to be (primarily) a north-south fright line, linking the south coast ports to the Midlands, the north and Scotland. there also needs to be such dedicated lines linking the east and west coast ports, these lines need to be built to allow continental if not North American loading gauges (the later would allow double stack container trains [1]). This could be done far cheaper than HS2, and the removal of much fright from the WCML, and perhaps the ECML too, would allow improved passenger services, not to mention much road hauled container traffic.

    [1] do not confuse my suggestion of double stack freight trains as a suggestion that we could (easily) have double decked passenger trains, even if the loading gauge and modern improvements in train design allowed such a train there would still be the problem of longer station stops

  15. alan jutson
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Absolutely agree that our traffic/transport infrastructure needs a massive upgrade.

    Having visited France for many years it is amazing the progress they have made with improving their road and rail network in comparison with ours here in the UK.

    Their economy is not in a good shape, but they have still managed to invest in tangible projects which has improved efficiency for travel.
    Aware its a larger Country with more open space and its old established cities can still be a nightmare (like ours) but perhaps we need to look more closely as to how they can push forward with projects in what seems no time, when we take decades to make any decisions.

    Runway space will hold us back economically in quite short time as decisions are delayed, and delayed and delayed again.

    We are capable, British engineers designed and built the new airport in Hong Kong, we simply need the will and desire.

    In the meantime it does not take a great deal of decision making to mend the millions of potholes we have which seem to litter every road in the Country.

    Scrap HS2 which is a vanity project, and get on with some real infrastructure improvements which will benefit ordinary people.

  16. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Now why on earth would a government wish or need to do all that if :-
    1. It intended to cut immigration?

    AND
    2. The present rate of persons leaving the UK continues

    AND
    3. It intends to pay off national debt?

  17. Moxy
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Just think what could be done instead if that ridiculous white elephant/ Osbourne+Cameron vanity project HS2 was cancelled. Most of the issues John has raised in his blog could be addressed.
    An alternative to the White Elephant could be a wide German style canal running the length of the country. This could transfer water from wetter areas to the drier higher populated south east, run power cables in adjacent ductwork from renewable energy sources which work better in the north, run communication cables, transfer freight from roads, open a wide range of leisure uses. It would be environmentally sound and visually acceptable. Unlike HS2 which does nothing other than shave 30 minutes off a journey for a few wealthy passengers and decimates the countryside in its creation.

  18. JJE
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Before we spend all the money on new projects, how about maintaining and fixing the assets we already have? The biggest issue on most roads around the country is the dreadful surface from all the potholes. There are years worth of resurfacing projects that are urgently needed.

  19. JJE
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Presumably Mrs. May was hoping EDF would pull the plug on Hinkley Point?
    It would have been better to negotiate a joint face saving decision to stop it with M. Hollande.
    Someone needs to admit this project is trouble all round.

  20. JimS
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Why do people need to travel? Shouldn’t we we be putting work/shopping nearer to where people live?

    Shunting individual wagons is daft. More loads should be in containers to allow ship/rail/road transfers without breaking seals etc. New freight railways should have the same loading gauge as the Channel Tunnel to allow long-distance shuttles. Perhaps road ‘trains’ of lorries under common control are now a cheaper option?

    Ban bikes from pavements and all roads with speed limits above 30mph. Ban overtaking on the left.

  21. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Couldn’t the Canadian, American and New Zealand governments give a direct individual subsidy to British people to emigrate along the lines of the The Assisted Passage Migration Scheme making the best of us into “Ten Pound Poms”?
    Surely this would be better than those governments giving money to the UK government to so overcrowd us, over-develop railways, roads etc that a normal human being would be incentivised to leave the UK for Life? Those government ARE giving Billions to the UK government aren’t they? Surely they’re not getting such talented migrants such as we for nothing?

  22. Evan Owen
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    How about moving jobs out of cities? Why do they have to be in the most expensive areas?

  23. Bert Young
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The infrastructure of this country is badly in need of overhaul ; roads , rail and all forms of transport need to accomodate the vastly increased usage that exists . The A34 that Prangwizard has highlighted was a nightmare on Wednesday (when I was returning from Southampton Airport ) ; a 10 mile tailback of traffic was caused by an accident due to the lack of hard shoulders on this strategic route ; surely it warrants up-dating .

  24. agricola
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    The state of urban roads in the UK is dreadful, certainly if my old town of residence, Wocester is an example. There is also a lack of ability to solve major problems that have signalled there existence for ten years or more. It all leaves one with the impression that political UK cannot manage the proverbial piss up in a brewery.

    The aim of modernising the rail service should be more intensive use of existing infrastructure. This means better automated signalling and control, not investment in politicians vanity projects such as HS2. If it fails the commercial test then it should be dropped. manufacture should be within the UK. Rail freight should largely be geared to containers as it is at sea with rail linked centres in industrial areas. A sixteen year old schoolboy could have told you this thirty years ago.

    Both Heathrow and Gatwick require extra runways and fast links to London centre. We could then run air commutor services between all modern business centres at very low cost. If I can travel Birmingham- Dublin return for less than £40.00 then air can compete with road and rail all over the UK.

    It all requires leadership with ability and vision, sadly lacking in our political classes at all levels and not helped by a civil service with little concept of what a commercially profitable operation entails. You might have to recruit top management from places like S.Korea, Japan, or India as they have a track record of running vehicle manufacture at a profit.

    I would consider a civil service staff college course that entailed working in a company like Toyota for five years before they are let anywhere near any serious decision making. I would also insist that any would be MP has similar experience of real life before being considered as a candidate for Parliament. No more School , University, Westminster Gofer, Safe Seat route to the H o C. If industry cannot afford to be run by incompetents why do we tolerate them in the world of government.

  25. DaveM
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Good ideas abound, but as with in every sector nothing will happen until post-brexit because of “uncertainty”. So please, please, just get on with it.

  26. Adam
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Any debate on HS2 needs to remember it’s an EU project. Given that our economy is supposed to collapse any time soon, is this really something we should spend money on.

  27. MDS
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Roads:
    Road closures and poor control of traffic management at temporary traffic lights are grinding parts of this country to a halt. Temporary traffic lights cause less disruption if the phasing is set visually by a human being manually switching them. Monday to Saturday 7am to 7pm this should be mandatory. I believe not only would this aid traffic flows it would often mean the lights were actually not set up at all or are set up for shorter periods. This would be zero capital cost to the government and very effective in the need to free up roads quickly.

    Rail:
    Instead of HS2 why not have lines set up with the larger loading gauge of the channel tunnel so trains that can carry lorries and cars could run between strategic parts of the country to free up road space. IE drive your car/lorry into a channel tunnel style train in the Birmingham area and drive off near Glasgow or Plymouth or Felixstowe. Surely this would leave drivers more rested and free up space on roads like the M6 M5 M74 A14 for example

  28. ian
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Same old, same old, no innovation, just looking backwards and carrying on and want every thing built at once because the parliament has not built much for the last 25 years but thing is they have no trained workforce, not the equipment or goods and all has to be done on borrowed money and it could be all change when next government takeover, that the trouble with parliament, just infighting amongst themselves with their parties that are always socially engineering and thinking about overseas matter and wars and spend all the money on these rubbish things.

  29. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, Theresa May and her office have now allowed two areas of confusion to arise quite unnecessarily, and both need to be sorted out PDQ.

    Firstly, before she had become leader and was seeking support among Tory party members she decided to take a hard line over the future position of EU citizens already settled here at the invitation of our government and Parliament, and while she has recently been softening that line it has now got tangled up with the issue of controlling future immigration from the other EU countries. She only needs to say what many have suggested, that those who were already ordinarily resident here before a cut-out date, let us say June 23rd 2106, could rest assured that they would welcome to stay as long as they liked, but those who come after that date cannot expect any similar guarantee.

    Secondly, she has appointed Liam Fox to head up a new Department for International Trade to promote our trade with countries around the world, but her office is now saying in effect that he may have very little to do because it has not yet been decided whether the EU should continue to run our trade policy:

    https://next.ft.com/content/a082b37a-54bd-11e6-9664-e0bdc13c3bef

    “But the trade secretary’s job only makes sense if Britain pulls out of the EU’s customs union, under which Brussels negotiates global trade deals and sets a common external tariff and trade rules for all members.

    The UK prime minister’s office said no decision had been made on whether to stay in the customs union, in spite of Mr Fox telling the Wall Street Journal the government would seek a free-trade agreement with the EU rather than a closer “customs union”.”

    And now that is getting tangled up not only with a previous question about how far the UK can go with trade negotiations before it leaves the EU and its customs union, but also with what seems to be another stupid question about who will be negotiating our exit from the EU, when it was previously clear that it would be David Davis in the new office of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

    I note that most of this is coming through the FT, which seems to have embarked on a propaganda campaign to denigrate, disrupt and eventually prevent Brexit.

    • alan jutson
      Posted July 30, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Dennis

      Agree absolutely with your comments.

      Has Mrs may learn’t nothing from Mr Cameron’s demise, and his insistence that he was best placed to negotiate when clearly others would have been better and he could have stood above it all.

      Why employ people to do a specific job and then interfere in every aspect of it yourself, and at the same time compromising their negotiation plan.

  30. Iain gill
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Why do they keep thinning the roads then?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted July 30, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      Well the theory (of the government “experts” and green loons) is that having more roads just encourages more traffic. So blocking the roads, creating environmental areas and phasing the traffic lights against cars and trucks discourages it.

      In reality no one wants to drive all day even if the roads are perfect, they just want to get from A to B efficiently. Busses, bikes and Trains are not actually more efficient door to door in general or even in C02 terms.

  31. NickC
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    What should the government do? Like many others here I would scrap HS2 and instead use the money freed up in more constructive ways. Each locality will know best what is needed and have a good idea of the consequences.

    For example we need a motorway connector (with extensive tunneling) from the M1 at the north of Sheffield to the end of the M67 near Hyde. I like the idea of double deck commuter trains as AndyC says. I would also look at undergrounds for our bigger cities outside London. So called smart motorways are being installed whilst there are potholes in the motorway surface – crazy.

  32. David
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
    • alan jutson
      Posted July 30, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      David

      Perhaps would be a good idea if the canals were made wide enough for much larger barges than were used in the past.

      Then it may be efficient for transporting heavy goods.

  33. ian
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    USA first quarter GDP revised from 1.1 to 0.8 with no bad weather to blame and second quarter come in at 1.2, should of been 2.6.

    A great result for 8 years of central bank largeness and if it was not for health care going through the roof with terror and wars there would no growth to talk about, it does not say a lot about usa companies apart from government handouts and money for nothing to buy their own shares, a country in decline.

  34. John B
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Or they could end the State monopoly and open transport infrastructure up to the free market. NHS too whilst at it.

    No Government planning went into the canal system, railways or roads (or healthcare and education) until the Socialism virus infected Government.

    Still, a Conservative Government would be needed for free market capitalism and there isn’t one.

  35. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I agree with a lot of what you say but not all of it.

    HS2 should be cancelled because it would probably be a lemon (a couple of blogs ago I produced figures to show that HS1 was indeed a lemon). The package of rail measures you suggest to improve commuter capacity is spot on.

    I am against single wagon marshalling of rail freight. No one has ever been able to make a profit out of this, at least in this country. Whole trains, preferably scheduled, can satisfy customer needs. HGVs are well suited for just in time delivery and we are allowed to widen motorways, e.g. the M6 between Birmingham and Manchester. Toll it for a number of years if revenue is needed; motorists don’t like tolls but will accept them as a means of financing capacity improvements.

    The third London runway should be at Gatwick because it is the option that requires the least taxpayer funding and is politically deliverable. We should get on and do it.

    After Gatwick expansion, other options need to be looked at pragmatically and thoroughly. The main options are a third (short) runway at Heathrow, major expansion at Heathrow involving changing the vertical alignment of the M4, and a brand new London airport.

    Including right turn stages at traffic signals has improved safety but in many instances reduced capacity. Highway authorities have generally gone for safe four stage cycles and this is what has made roundabouts more attractive. High capacity signalised roundabouts, with a road cutting through the centre of the gyratory – such as Switch Island at Old Roan, Liverpool and Black Dam at Basingstoke – are often good value.

    As a generalisation, junction capacity improvements are one of the best ways of spending transport budgets. The most fuel efficient cars are those that (a) carry more than one occupant and (b) travel at a constant speed of 56 mph. High capacity junctions don’t eliminate stopping, queueing and starting but they very much reduce it. The Balck Dam improvement is a case in point.

    • Mockbeggar
      Posted August 1, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      I don’t suppose anyone will read this, even you LM, as it’s so late in being posted. However, I must point out that self-propelled Freight wagons would need no marshalling. Your container, clearly marked with a destination rail head, is simply delivered to your nearest rail head by HGV and collected by the same means at its destination. If two containers are making the same journey, they could be linked, if convenient.

  36. ian
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    You can take the usa GDP figures with pinch of salt as they are revised up over the next two quarters, as the dollar goes down only to change course over the next month or two.

  37. ian
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Just had the RSPCA round about, they have taken in 1 million animals this year is there anybody out there who need a pet asap before they have to start killing them.

  38. LondonBob
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Second runway for Gatwick, improved links to Stansted and freight to elsewhere (Marston?) would be cheaper than Heathrow getting a third runway.

    • alan jutson
      Posted July 30, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      LondonBob

      Would spread the traffic volume/loading as well.

      Fact is we will need more than just one more runway in a decades time so, we should perhaps look again at Boris Island !

  39. Jack
    Posted July 30, 2016 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    This is the way to think of the economy, in terms of real resources not phony financial constraints. It’s the wonders that come with being free from a fixed exchange rate, where the only constraint on fiscal policy is inflation. 😉

    And the inflation of our past, specifically the 1980s, was because of the high interest rates set by the BoE back then, contrary to popular belief. Now the base interest rate is almost zero meaning no-one is getting much “money for nothing”, and inflation is going to be much harder to create from here on out anyway.

    Obviously the currency is still weaker since the Brexit result, but it’s unlikely to create a lot of inflation especially when, as mentioned above, the BoE Bank rate is 0.5%.

    • Jack
      Posted July 30, 2016 at 12:42 am | Permalink

      To be clear, the inflation of the 1970s and 80s was high because of the oil price shocks, but higher interest rates exacerbated the problem, they didn’t fix it.

  40. Simon Platt
    Posted July 30, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I think that almost all modern road building has been a Bad Thing, a racket to benefit civil engineers and property developers at the expense of damaged communities.

  41. LC
    Posted July 31, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Instead of this constant drive to move jobs to the cities we should invest more in job creation in our towns. This would reduce travel to work. I only have experience of my own area which is Blackpool. One of the biggest employers in this area is the Civil Service. During the 1980s a big drive to move jobs from the South of England to this area was carried out. This resulted in a better workforce as there was less competition for jobs in this area allowing for the retention of experienced staff. Now we see the reverse happening with the loss of thousands of Civil Service jobs from our area. As part of George Osborne’s “Power House of the North” Civil Service jobs are being moved out of this area to Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. The reason cited is that we have poor travel infrastructure. Now I have to ask why Civil Servants need to travel constantly around the country. Surely in this day and age with good internet communications it shouldn’t be necessary for vast numbers of people to travel about. On the question of infrastructure we have seen our regional airport closed as the Government’s airport taxes have made it unviable. Now everyone in the North-West has to travel to Manchester or Liverpool. Though lack of investment our intercity rail link was terminated. Instead of spending all the money of building new runways at the city airports why can’t we see some investment in the regional airports? Instead of ploughing money into HS2 why can’t we invest in our regional railways? Maybe we should look at moving jobs to where the people live instead of this constant drive to locate them in the cities. For this to succeed we need more investment in the regional rail, road and airports.

  42. Rhys Jaggar
    Posted July 31, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    So you want more freight capacity and greater commuter capacity.

    Well, unfortunately for all the SE haters of HS2, that is precisely what that project is about.

    Are you principled enough to agree with that and then only argue on the cost-benefit of it, allied to its ability to reduce domestic flight requirements into Heathrow, thereby freeing up landing slots and thus reducing the long-term requirements for capacity somewhat?

    It won’t make you popular with head-in-the-sand ostriches in your constituency, you know.

    But maybe you need to challenge them and say:
    1. HS2 frees up slots for commuter trains from Northampton, Milton Keynes etc into Euston.
    2. It provides for greater freight capacity on WCML.
    3. It provides more efficient access to Heathrow from large parts of the North of England and the Midlands.
    4. It provides the impetus to regenerate a domestic rail engineering sector, providing skilled jobs in the North of England.
    5. It provides the possibility for corporations to be headquartered in the North of England whilst retaining rapid and efficient access to London when necessary.
    6. It is a way to help to retain the Union if HSR completion to Scotland occurs (which will also allow quite a bit of reduction of domestic flight requirements between Glasgow/Edinburgh and Heathrow).

    Arguments which actually involve the country rather than the SE are impossible for most SE voters. They fail to understand the ridiculous cost inefficiencies of everything built in London because all they care about is London and their commuter belt lives. No capitalist would ever invest in London right now as it is 300% more expensive than anywhere else in the country. But because the UK is a corrupt, criminal country, all the investment constantly pours into London at vastly inflated prices and the SE drones keep saying it is ‘efficient’.

    To say that they need counselling for mental illness would be charitable………

  • 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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