Headlines: May 7th, 2004

The government is facing a new call for more investment in Britain’s roads to avoid the possibility of traffic grinding to a halt. It comes from the RAC Foundation in response to latest figures that show overall traffic levels rose by 1.8 per cent in the 12 months to the end of April. Car traffic rose by 2 per cent in the same period.The figures show that traffic increased across the whole road network, with use of motorways growing by one per cent and traffic on minor rural roads rising by 3 per cent.

The Foundation says it is concerned by the government’s apparent lack of a solution to the increasing traffic Britain’s roads. The UK, it says, is suffering worse congestion than most European countries, and the latest figures clearly show that the road network is not keeping up with demand. Traffic increased by 75 per cent between 1980 and 2002 while the total length of roads increased by only a tenth over the same time.

In its own recent report the RAC Foundation identified a list of urgently needed improvements to the strategic road network. These would cost around 2 billion pounds a year over 10 years but, according to the Foundation, would provide good value for money. Road users currently contribute 44 billion per year of which less than 6 billion is spent on roads. The RAC says that means its improvements could be paid for out of half of one year’s motoring taxation.

Edmund King, the Executive Director of the RAC Foundation said UK roads would not be able to cope if traffic levels continue to grow at 1.8 per cent a year without significant and sustained investment in the road network by government.

“These latest traffic figures should give government the wake-up call it needs to rethink its roads policy before we have total gridlock, ” he said.