MPs have told the Government that greater use of real-time information and more ‘managed motorways’, could cut congestion and save fleets billions of pounds.
But if the schemes are to prove successful, they say it’s crucial the Department of Transport (DfT) takes a lead role and stops shirking its responsibilities.
The Commons Transport Committee report – Out of the Jam: reducing congestion on our roads – examined options for curbing congestion without road building or road pricing.
The report said that the bus lane on the M4 should be reinstated if evidence suggests it has contributed to faster traffic movement – taking account of all travellers.
And, it stressed that urgent action is needed to speed up the time taken to clear major roads after an accident.
“Improving the way we manage road space so that the network runs more smoothly is vital to the prosperity of the nation,” said committee chair Louise Ellman. “This should form a key plank of central government transport policy.
“The Department for Transport cannot simply devolve all responsibility for managing the road network to individual Highway Authorities. The DfT should actively support them in working together closely to fulfil that duty.”
The Eddington Transport Study revealed a 5% reduction in the time business spends travelling could generate savings of £2.5 billion.
But in evidence to the committee, the DfT estimated that the cost of congestion to business is set to rise and could cost the economy £22bn each year by 2025.
The committee agrees with the Government that one way of helping to address this is for the ‘managed motorway’ approach is implemented to other parts of the network.
A pilot ‘Active Traffic Management’ scheme on the M42 was introduced in 2006, allowing traffic to drive on the hard shoulder at busy times, had produced a 24% reduction in average journey times, according to the Institute of Engineering and Technology. The cost was 40% cheaper than building an extra lane.
As a result, Government future spending programme includes introducing hard shoulder running on sections of the M62, M4, M6, M1, M25 and M60.
But the committee echoed the concerns of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) that the use of the hard shoulder by traffic could impede the emergency services.
Ellman added: “Ministers must clarify who is responsible for warning road users about impending congestion and work with the transport industry and authorities to increase the availability of such information to drivers through greater use of existing, successful ‘intelligent traffic management’ systems across local authority boundaries.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is urging the Government to look hard at the report’s recommendations, especially the use of data-sharing to tackle congestion.
“While gaps in knowledge on the strategic road network are mercifully few, there are gaping holes in local authority areas where operators struggle to get the information they need,” said Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of road network management policy. “Real-time information is critical if we are to ensure deliveries are made on time.”