Our priority is to provide a safe and reliable transport network consistent with wider social and environmental objectives that will benefit all transport users.
Company car drivers have already benefited from the introduction of variable vehicle excise duty and company car rates, providing an option of saving over £100 in VED, and thousands of pounds on their Company Car Tax bill by choosing clean, low carbon vehicles. The overall cost of motoring in the UK has fallen below 1990 levels, with duty on main road fuels falling by nearly 12%, saving motorists around 6p per litre.
We have seen some considerable improvements to our transport network in recent years. For example, we completed more than 100 road schemes, our railways now carry more passengers than at any time since the 1950s, we have halted the long-term decline in buses, with bus use rising over the past three years and our roads are getting safer, with the number of children killed or seriously injured down 40% since 1997.
However, transport has suffered from decades of under-investment and there is no quick fix. Labour is investing more resources over a sustained period so that both Government and private businesses can plan ahead with confidence. By 2008, Labour will have doubled transport spending since 1997 and it will continue to grow by 2% a year to 2015.
Company car drivers will see the benefits of this sustained investment through better roads, more efficient use of our road network and reductions in congestion.
In our manifesto, we announced a number of plans to improve our road network, including plans to expand capacity on the M1, M6 and M25.
But we cannot build our way out of congestion – the environmental cost would be unacceptable and ultimately it wouldn’t work. We are tackling congestion through better management of the road network. We are changing the Highways Agency from being primarily a road builder and maintainer to becoming a network operator, managing traffic flow on trunk roads and responding quickly to incidents.
The Highways Agency is cutting congestion by reducing the amount of time lanes are closed for roadworks and making sure more work is done outside of peak hours. We are committed to a more active management of our roads with variable speed limits, better information to the motorist and, where safe, hard shoulder running at peak times.
A quarter of all congestion is caused by road traffic incidents. This is why we have set up the traffic officer service. Motorists caught in traffic owing to road accidents or obstructions on trunk roads should benefit from a more targeted and faster clear-up, making journeys safer and more reliable. Traffic officers assist police in the clear-up operation.
We have given councils greater control over when and where utility companies can carry out street works to prevent roads being repeatedly dug up. Utility companies wanting to carry out street works must now apply for a permit and if they fail to repair a road properly, they face fines of up to £5,000 and must rectify previous poor work. Councils now appoint a traffic manager to oversee roadworks.
We need to examine whether or not we can use new technology to use roads more efficiently, for example by moving away from the current system of motor taxation towards a national system of road pricing. Such a system is some way off, but studies show it could halve congestion and save the British economy £12 billion.
We are committed to increasing road safety and have already cut deaths and serious injuries by nearly 25% since 1997. For example, we are taking action to combat accidents from driver fatigue and applaud actions taken by some fleet companies to reduce the need for some of their employees to drive tired.
Our comprehensive, long term commitment to improving the UK’s transport system is built on sustained investment, better management and planning ahead.