RAC Believes Utilising Motorway Hard Shoulders is not Adequate

The Chancellor's plans to promote hard shoulder running is not an adequate answer to managing future growth in road traffic, according to the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, who are publishing a review of the Motorway network to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the first Motorway.

Concentrating all road improvements on existing motorways through measures such as Motorway widening and hard shoulder running is problematic because existing junctions and access roads are unlikely to be able to cope with increased traffic volumes. New road building is also needed if the demands of the economy are to be met.

According to the report, which assesses past and future road needs, traffic on Motorways in Britain has been growing much faster than their rate of building, which has led to the congestion we see today. Road capacity improvements to the existing network are needed, but there is also value in developing new roads to Motorway standards.

The basic elements of the Motorway network were developed shortly after the Second World War, when traffic levels were similar to the 1930s. At this time policy makers had no idea how traffic was likely to grow. Since then, some additions have been made to the basic Motorway plan, but the main approach over the past two decades has been to expand the existing network rather than create new links.

According to the report road development should focus on developing the motorway network for five main reasons:

1. Motorways have lower accident rates than other roads;

2. Motorways are generally further away from residential and commercial developments;

3. Motorways allow for higher capacities and service levels than other roads;

4. New by passes will largely be able to join up with existing main routes, and;

5. The British Motorway network is sparse by European standards;

Concentrating all road improvements to the existing network rather than building wholly new routes would:

* Encourage long distance and heavy goods vehicles to use inappropriate routes through residential areas, especially where no nearby motorway exists;

* Reduce the resilience of the overall road network and increases the likelihood of network failure due to a lack of alternative routes;

* Concentrate more traffic on existing routes and increase the likelihood of serious congestion, and;

* Increase pressure on junction and feeder roads that were designed for lower levels of traffic. Continued motorway widening and hard shoulder running activities will increase the traffic pressure seen at intersections.

Due to development pressures and population growth the need for extra road capacity is almost seven times as great in the South East as it is in Scotland.

The British Motorway network is limited by European standards. It has been under increasing pressure since growth of the network slowed in 1980 whilst traffic volumes increased rapidly. When looking at car traffic, the UK ranks near bottom of the European league where motorway provision is concerned. The ten smaller EU states also have around twice the amount of Motorways as the UK. In 1970 the UK was relatively poorly provided with Motorways in comparison to its population. The UK has steadily fallen further and further behind other European countries, moving from seventh to tenth place.

Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation says 'To plan effectively for future roads we must learn from our past failures. We need a better understanding of who is using the network and why, and how our infrastructure in the UK measures up to our European counterparts.'

'Merely filling gaps within our existing Motorways would be a missed opportunity. This is not a good approach for society, the economy or the environment. We need to think in broader terms. Simply widening existing routes and implementing hard shoulder running will not provide adequate and resilient roads for the future'.

Tim Green, Director Road Users' Alliance says 'Roads are the arteries that feed the economy and permit us to compete with the rest of Europe. As a boost to the process of getting Britain back on its feet the Chancellor's announcement is welcome recognition of the importance of our road network, but it represents too little too late. At stake is the recovery of the British economy and its future growth in the face of global competition'.

5 December 2008 Staff
 

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