Headlines: April 29th, 2005

The incoming Government will face a transport crisis looming if it buries its head in the sand and fails to develop and fund a national transport strategy, according to the RAC Foundation today. It says unless transport is given a much higher priority by whoever wins power in next week’s General Election, not just Britain’s economy but also its people will be damaged. .The Foundation believes the need for transport improvement is so fundamental that it is calling for cross-party agreement to be reached on the central issues. It is concerned that in spite of transport’s vital importance to the wealth and vitality of the country and the fact that it affects most voters every day it has barely figured in the election campaign.

Launching its own “Agenda for Action” the Foundation points to the fact that congestion is currently costing transport users and operators at least 15 billion pounds a year and says that figure could double in the next decade if nothing is done. The Agenda urges politicians to ensure that transport planning and policy making are not swept under the carpet.

It calls for urgent improvements to the provision and operation of the roads network and the appointment of an independent Roads Regulator to oversee the operation of roads. It wants new road capacity to be examined and all existing motorways and key trunk roads to be widened. It says the environmental impact of road improvements should be reduced by the use of tunnels and bypasses. It says, too, that the condition of much of the local road network must be addressed and it urges the introduction of a comprehensive national road user charging scheme but only when this is technically feasible and acceptable to the motorist.

Turning to planning the Foundation’s agenda says appropriate recognition should be given to transport in land-use and economic planning. So, for example, if new housing is to be built the transport infrastructure must be improved. It wants parking provision placed at the heart of national and local planning policy. On safety it says to little importance is given to the education of road users, especially during their formative years, and it suggests creating a road safety module into the national curriculum. Retraining, it says, should be offered as an alternative to, or part of criminal proceedings or sentence, for drivers who offend, depending on the nature of the offence.

It accepts that good road design, construction and maintenance will not stop unsafe drivers having collisions but believes that high quality roads can improve safety. On the topic of speed it wants reviews of limits to ensure that they are appropriate and of the role of speed camera partnerships.