Knocking rail travel and not mentioning cycling as a solution to short-distance journeys, the RAC Foundation has issued a press release – Keeping the nation moving – urging for more trunk roads to be built but admits that building more roads is not a solution to congestion.
The RAC Foundation is in favour of road pricing as a means of limiting supply and paying for demand.
The press release, issued today, said:
“There needs to be a fundamental look at how the strategic and main roads are planned, developed, funded, operated and maintained; how the traffic that uses the road network is managed; and how that use is paid for."
Flagging the likelihood of gridlock ahead, the organisation said: "There will be at least four million more cars on the UK’s roads in the next twenty-five years as the population grows by more than ten million. The jump in people and cars will be accompanied by surges in traffic volume and delays on the UK’s roads, which are already the most heavily used in Europe."
While more long distance journeys could be undertaken by train (if, of course, train travel was funded to the same handsome degree as motoring) and more short local journeys could be undertaken by public transport, by walking, and by bicycle, the RAC Foundation has little to say on these solutions, although it’s critical of the billions to be spent on High Speed 2 rail link from London to the north of England:
“In isolation HS2 might have merit, but viewed alongside many of the road projects it seems very average. While a relatively few rich business men will benefit from a high speed rail link the majority of the population who have to drive to go about their business will find themselves in more and more congestion."
The more and more congestion will be due to more and more cars.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said:
"It is a case of jams today, and even more jams tomorrow. The Department for Transport’s own figures show that by 2035 traffic is set to rise by almost 50% and delays by more than 50%. And these are only average figures. In some places, at some times of the day, the jams will be many times worse. The impact will be immense, not just on car drivers but also businesses trying to move their goods about.
“There needs to be a fundamental look at how the strategic and main roads are planned, developed, funded, operated and maintained; how the traffic that uses the road network is managed; and how that use is paid for.
“In the meantime there are 96 relatively small scale road improvement schemes which could be implemented as part of the growth agenda. They would deliver big benefits to significant numbers of people and businesses."
These "relatively small scale road improvement schemes" would cost billions of pounds. Just a fraction of the UK’s current road building budget could create a world-class cycling infrastructure but motoring organisations – and the Government – seem happy to drive headlong into gridlock, even as the oil is running out and solutions to future travel need to be found.
Glaister said: “We are not advocating a massive road building programme – we know we cannot build our way out of the nation’s forecast traffic problems, nor would we want to afford to. But what we do need from government is a clear long-term strategy. The Government’s own forecasts just cannot be ignored.”
Indeed, they can’t. In the gridlocked cities of the future the only things moving on the roads will be cyclists and motorcyclists.