With the problem growing, so are the costs, which are now put in the region of £20bn per year – a figure that is set to rise significantly according to a new report Policy Exchange, an independent thinktank that aims to influence Government policy.
According to the report, the UK has the most crowded and congested roads, the fewest motorways, and some of the worst public transport among the leading industrialised countries.
According to the authors, the money is there to improve things.
In 2006, private road users paid around £32bn in transport-related taxes.
Of this, just £8bn was spent on the road network – a large proportion of which was spent on repairing damage to the roads.
The report points out that just 6% of passenger travel is undertaken by train, compared with 84% by car, yet the railways receive annual subsidies totalling almost £6.5 billion – nearly as much as the Government spends on roads.
As Policy Exchange chief economist Dr Oliver Hartwich puts it: “Britain's transport infrastructure is, quite simply, not fit for purpose and unable to meet the needs of a modern country.
"Transport infrastructure investment has become detached from consumer demand. The absence of price signals means it is difficult for government planners to allocate expenditure efficiently.
"To ration roads without employing road user charges is comparable only with the Soviet system of queuing.
"The waste and inefficiency of such a system is painfully obvious to anyone who has sat in congestion and traffic jams.”
One solution proposed in the report is to upgrade transport infrastructure now, and then, once users have begun to experience substantial benefits, introduce the road user charges necessary to cover the costs.