Getting about – our motorways and trunk roads

The Wokingham constituency has reasonable access to the M4, and is within modest driving distances of the M3, the M40 and the M25 which are all an important part of our road network. To the west lies the A34 trunk road, and to the north east the short A 404 trunk link to the M40. All the other roads are local roads, including the A4 which was detrunked some years ago, and the A329M. Using the major routes travellers from Wokingham have access to London, to the west country, to Birmingham and to the north.

The distinction between trunk and local roads matters as they are managed in different ways. All local roads come under the control of the principal Council’s Highways Department – in Wokingham’s case Wokingham Borough to the east and West Berkshire to the west. The Councils have a budget to maintain and improve these routes, and they lead any policy for changing their capacity or their traffic controls. The motorways and trunk roads are a strategic network of major routes, affording on a good day faster journey times for longer distance travel for both cars and goods vehicles. They are especially suited for large and heavy vehicles, which can make good use of them at night when traffic volumes are lighter. This network takes one third of the traffic on just 2.4% of the roads. These roads are also relatively safe, accounting for 9% of the casualties. It is paid for and maintained by the national government.

In a General Election it therefore makes more sense to debate the trunk network, as this is the one which will be controlled by the government Ministers we indirectly elect. Of course road users want a whole system that works for them, and are not so fussed about who runs what, but it still makes sense to recognise the different budgets and controls which apply, as it affects who to blame and lobby for improvement.

There is insufficient capacity on our local motorway and trunk network. The government has recognised this, and is nearing completion of a 33% increase in carriageway capacity on the M3 from Junction 4 to the M25 by converting the hard shoulder and upgrading to smart motorway. There are plans ready for similar expansion of the M4 from Reading to the M25, which will be the next major expansion. The M25 western section has been upgraded substantially once in its life, and a study is underway on what more needs to be done to provide capacity in that all too busy corner of the world. There are ideas to increase capacity on local roads to reduce local use of the motorway for shorter local journeys. There will need to be more capacity on the A 34 Southampton to Oxford which acts as a haul road for Southampton port traffic.

As MP in the last two Parliaments I argued the case for more capacity, allied to better sound reduction measures when the works are done on the M4. There will be more need of extra capacity and anti noise measures in the years ahead.

Published and promoted by Fraser Mc Farland on behalf of John Redwood, both at 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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14 Comments

  1. Thames Trader
    Posted June 2, 2017 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    The weak point in the argument is that motorway journeys in most areas of the country are unreliable because of the likelihood of incidents bringing the traffic to a total halt. Instead of adding new lanes to existing motorways we should be building new, separate carriageways so that a blockage at the M4 J5 for instance doesn’t bring the entire south east to a standstill.

    There should also be more screens between carriageways (just as there is at the M4 Heathrow junction) so that an incident on one direction can’t be seen from the other and bringing more traffic to a halt while drivers take a look.

    • Spratt
      Posted June 2, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      I agree. It would also be helpful to extend the areas where chevrons are painted on the tarmac to encourage drivers to keep a proper distance from the car in front and to start a public information campaign to remind drivers that it is illegal to ‘under-take’ on U.K. Motorways unless the traffic is moving very slowly in queues. I get the impression that some M4 users don’t know this.

      • Graham
        Posted June 2, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        You wouldn’t need to do that if Sunday or ignorant drivers didn’t hog the middle lane for mile after mile.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted June 2, 2017 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    It is quite clear that the M4 and very many other roads are at about half the capacity actually needed. It cost millions, wastes fuel, delays business wastes people’s valuable time and causes more pollution too.

    But May would rather waste money on a train track to Birminham, that is not needed and need huge subsidy.

    I see that EU loving, lefty Macron wants to make “The World Great Again”. This in response to Trumps excellent decision. Perhaps he could just start by turning France’s dire economy round. Not that his policies will do that. Then perhaps he could move on to saving the World, then perhaps to sort out the Universe! Has he said no return to boom and bust yet?

    • Know-dice
      Posted June 2, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Interesting that Macron spoke in English, which is a first for a French President.

      But, of course English is now irrelevant…or is it?

    • Martin
      Posted June 2, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Didn’t somebody’s grumpy constituents in Maidenhead oppose the late Mr Ridley’s sensible plan to widen the M4 some years ago?

    • Peter Parsons
      Posted June 2, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      That’d be the dire French economy where workers are, on average, 30% more productive per hour and 15% more productive overall than the UK?

      • libertarian
        Posted June 4, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Peter Parsons

        Yes indeed, that would be France, with the dire unemployment rate of 10% and French Youth unemployment is 26.3% . The France that loses 171 days on average per year due to strikes v UK which loses on average 24 days. The France that President Hollande bypassed parliament in 2016 to force through a jobs bill that made hiring and firing easier, Last year, 86.4 per cent of total hiring was into temporary jobs , That France

  3. a-tracy
    Posted June 2, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Smart motorways aren’t smart with everyone in the inside lane all trying to keep to 50 then they drop to 40 and people try to overtake so they speed up and people have to slow down to get back behind them. The controllers aren’t keeping control, these roads need to be 60 and increased to 70 when conditions are quiet it’s ridiculous, frustrating and unsafe, just check how many more accidents there have been on the M6 where everyone is slowed down unnecessarily. Also if this is to be retained the domestic driving hours rules need to be increased by 30 minutes per day otherwise drivers can’t get home! Other than self-employed drivers who don’t follow any rules.

  4. The Prangwizard
    Posted June 2, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Fat chance I know but the A34, between Winchester and the M40 along with many other similar roads, should be widened now rather than waiting until it is congested.

    And smart motorways are a con. ‘Smart’ indeed! Pick a buzzword and try to fool people.

    • alan jutson
      Posted June 2, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Prangwizard

      Agree with your comments absolutely.

      Smart motorways are rather more risky simply because the safety margin of the hard shoulder no longer exists.

      A34 should be a minimum of three lanes in each direction, with the addition of a crawler lane for lengthy hill climbs.

    • Know-dice
      Posted June 2, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Probably similar to “Smart Meters” that allow the energy providers to remotely turn off delinquent customers…

  5. John E
    Posted June 2, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    So we’re not bothering to pretend any more that potholes will get mended or the third bridge over the Thames will ever be built.

    Reply Potholes will be mended. The government has allocated more cash for local roads, and our local Councils have a reporting system to get holes filled quickly on a stitch in tine basis. Discussions continue with the north bank Councils re new Thames crossing, which the Berkshire side has always wanted.

  6. John
    Posted June 2, 2017 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    John as you say the local roads might be controlled and maintained by the local Councils, but the finances to do this come from taxes paid. The majority of these taxes are controlled by central government, even council tax increases are limited/controlled by central government. The indirectly elected government then dictate the priority spending for most of this money leaving the council with a small pot to do as it pleases.

    As has already been mentioned when the motorways are closed for maintenance or incidents, vehicles have to use local roads (do the council get a bonus payment for this? like the rail comapnies). The roads in Wokingham are badly pot holed creating plenty of work for tyre companies. Note to self: buy shares in Dunlop (other tyre companies available)!, congested and when not congested contain speeding motorists. The noise of speeding vehicles is far worse than Heathrow air traffic locally. Note to self: buy share in Dunlop (other tyre companies available).

    Regarding congestion I presume the building of distributor roads after estates are built is a national government policy that the local council has to follow, or is this purely a Wokingham planning policy.

    Reply Yes, money is provided by central government but the decisions about how to improve and maintain local roads are Council decisions. Timing of new estate roads is negotiated between the Council as planning authority and the developer.

  • 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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