THE Government's White Paper into the future of transport says that for most people, most of the time, the UK road network functions well.
But there are a number of places – particularly during peak hours, the report says – where 'road capacity and the pattern of road use results in slow and unreliable journeys'. In addition: 'The roads network experiences different pressures at different times.'
The Government claims that over the past six years it has made 'real progress' in creating a programme that will improve UK roads.
The Highways Agency programme of major projects includes widening the M25, widening and improving the M1 and three schemes on the A14 connecting the East Coast ports with the Midlands.
'The Highways Agency has completed 20 major schemes since 2002, plus the M6 Toll, which is now producing improved traffic flows on the strategic road network around Birmingham. The Highways Agency is also taking forward a programme of smaller schemes that will help make best use of the strategic road network by tackling local bottlenecks, improving junctions and addressing safety issues.'
It adds that traffic officers have also been taken on to help police get traffic moving after an accident. New systems to collect and process data on traffic flows have been launched to help warn motorists of potential problems before they begin their journey.
The report also states that the Government currently offers, and will continue to offer until at least 2006, free consultancy advice for organisations creating workplace travel plans.
And it has charged all of its departments with the task of cutting car commuting to their workplaces by 5% by 2006.
The report also reveals plans to soon announce a pilot scheme for its car pool initiative, that will offer those sharing a car use of dedicated lanes.
Safety and security
THE vast majority of transport-related deaths happen on roads, as opposed to rail, air or sea, but in Britain roads are among the safest in the world, the Government claims.
But it adds: 'We cannot be complacent. We have set ourselves the objective of reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured in Great Britain in road accidents by 40% compared with the average for 1994-98.'
On plans for the future, the Government says: 'We are keen to develop a deeper understanding of the causes of fatal accidents and we are working closely with the police to find ways of accessing data more quickly.'
It also lists the successes of its THINK! road safety campaign:
An increase in the proportion of motorists who find it unacceptable to drive at 40mph in a 30mph limit (76% in 2003, up from 60% in 1998)
The highest-ever level of young drivers disagreeing with the statement: 'It is safe to drive after two drinks' (67%)
Nearly universal awareness (96% in February 2004) of the new mobile phones legislation, introduced last December
Encouraging motorists to slow down, with the aim of making speeding as anti-social as drink-driving, and encouraging motorists not to drive while tired, to switch off their mobiles before driving and to recognise the dangers of drug-driving.
Low carbon transport plans
IT is recognised in the transport White Paper that the prospect of a transport system powered substantially by biofuels or hydrogen is a number of years away.
But the Government will introduce a series of measures in the short term towards the goal. These are:
Funding research, design and demonstration projects for low-carbon vehicles such as the New Vehicle Technology Fund
Ensuring that the right tax incentives are in place to encourage the uptake of new vehicles and fuel technologies
Pressing the European Commission to finalise a new round of voluntary agreements on new car fuel efficiency with the automotive industry
Promoting more widespread development and use of biofuels
Providing people with the choice to use public transport or other alternatives to the car, and encouraging a change in travel behaviour – for example, through measures such as travel planning
Taking forward measures that improve the management and use of the road network, including exploring the use of carpool lanes and road-pricing
Introducing new measures to support the development of an efficient and cost-effective freight logistics sector as part of our sustainable distribution strategy
Working towards the introduction of a UK new car CO2 labelling scheme, drawing on advice from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership
Supporting the intent of a proposed European Regulation to minimise the release of fluorinated gases used in car air-
Considering the scope for including surface transport in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme
What the Government says in its White Paper
BRITAIN'S roads are among the safest in the world. Total deaths and serious injuries on the road network were down by 22% in 2003 compared to the average for 1994-98
School travel plans, workplace travel plans and personalised journey planning have helped prompt people to consider, and take up, alternatives to the routine use of their own car, especially for journeys at peak hours
New cars today are far cleaner than they were a decade ago. They emit less carbon and fewer pollutants. They are also far more energy efficient – this benefits the motorist and the environment
If a step change is to be made in the quality of service provided to road users, motorists need – in addition to the policies already in place – to revisit the way using the road network is paid for
good use is being made of developments in technology to support Government objectives to inform road users of choices before they travel, to keep them informed while they travel and to target the efforts of traffic managers
Policies to promote smarter choices and better network management, together with well-targeted additional capacity, will make a difference. But looking further ahead, they will not be enough on their own to prevent congestion spreading to longer periods each day, and to more roads, increasing the suffering of road-users, business and our wider society
The long-term risk of higher congestion will not be addressed just by adding new capacity, even if it is tolled. And it will not resolve the problems on the current road network. The case for a different way of paying for our current road network needs to be considered seriously
Decisions taken at the national, regional or local level, such as investing in a bypass, supporting a rail route or improving bus services, influence the choices people can make on how and when to travel, where to live and work, and the markets in which businesses operate
Current arrangements for making decisions on transport will be improved. Central to this will be giving regional and local bodies more influence to ensure that transport services can be tailored to local needs and preferences
Good transport is central to a prosperous economy, facilitating better access and greater mobility. But the increasing demand for travel must be balanced against the goal of effectively protecting the environment and improving the quality of life for everyone – whether travelling or not