He said: 'Traffic growth has been forecast at 28% over the next 10 years and if we did nothing, it would get worse. But with this package, we think we can cut congestion by 5%, which will help us maintain the current level of journey times.
'The slowest part of any journey has nothing to do with the motorway network. It is the local roads and the key to improving journey times lies with them. But I doubt that traffic speeds in London, Manchester or Birmingham are going to improve in the future.'
The package aims to improve safety and provide better driver information for road users, including installing variable message signs, automatic incident detection and an upgraded national telecommunications fibre optic cable network, to increase the reliability of journey times.
'We want to let drivers know if there has been an accident and to tell them of alternative routes they can take if there is an accident or congestion ahead,' said Eastman.
Package highlights include:
- Installing 'automatic traffic hold-up warning systems' on 30% of all English motorways by 2004 to reduce accidents at the back of traffic queues on the most congested lengths.
- 200 more motorway monitoring cameras by 2004 to give faster response to accidents and breakdowns, to reduce disruption and further accidents.
- Tripling the number of message signs on national roads to 1,500 by 2003 to suggest alternative routes and avoid delays at key intersections.
- Providing real time strategic management of traffic through the new national traffic control centre from 2002, the preferred bidder of which will be announced later this year.
- Supporting development by car makers of intelligent in-car information systems.
- Extending the M25 controlled motorway project between junctions 15 and 16 near Heathrow and introduce controlled motorways in Manchester and Birmingham to smooth traffic flows and reduce stop-start driving which causes accidents.