UK: Frustrated motorists call to invest

UK: Frustrated motorists call to invest

* Not enough being done to ease congestion on the nation’s roads

Motorists have revealed strong views about the state of the UK’s road network, with 89% frustrated at the condition of their local roads, according to analysis conducted by RAC*.

The survey of RAC members showed high levels of dissatisfaction over road conditions in the UK, with only 2% of motorists saying the roads in their area are more than adequately maintained. Results show that the public are not looking for major changes to the road network; instead they are calling for better maintenance of the local roads that they use every day.

In contrast, the condition of the UK’s motorway and dual carriageway network scored favourably with RAC members, with 65% of 18-35 year olds satisfied with the current standard. This varied tremendously from region to region with Londoners and those in the North far more positive than those in Northern Ireland, the West and the East of England. The view was less optimistic with older motorists with only 33% of motorists over 65 satisfied with the current standard of the UK’s motorway and dual carriageway network.

Congestion was also a major focus of frustration for motorists, with, in their view, the M25 between Heathrow and the M1 being the most congested stretch of road.

According to RAC members the top-10 most congested roads in the UK are:

1. M25 - Section from Heathrow to M1
2. M6/M42 Interchange - East of Birmingham
3. M6 - Section from Telford to Birmingham
4. M25 - Dartford Crossing
5. M4/A4 - Approach into West London
6. M1 - Section from Nottingham to Sheffield
7. A14 - Section around Cambridge & Huntingdon
8. M62 - Section around Leeds & Huddersfield
9. M1 - Section through the Home Counties
10. A406 (North Circular) - Section from M1 to M11 (N/NE London)

RAC members suggested some effective ways of diffusing congestion on the UK’s road network are to introduce more advanced warning signs on the motorways (66%) and traffic light phasing (65%).

Active Traffic Management (using hard shoulders) was also considered to be an effective method of reducing congestion, proving particularly popular with 84% of 18-25 year-olds. This should be welcome news to The Highway Agency, as its 2009/10 business plan places hard shoulder running (HSR) at the top of the agenda, with major expansions of the scheme planned for the M1, M6, M4 and M5.

Road charging is considered the least effective method of dealing with congestion with only 21% saying it is effective in any way. This is borne out when looking at the top-10 most congested roads. The M6 stretch from Telford to Birmingham came third-highest, despite the fact that the M6 toll road runs almost parallel to ease congestion. Clearly not enough people are prepared to pay up to £4.70 each-way charge for cars or £9.40 each-way charge for vans, coaches and HGV’s.

As well as the roads, RAC members show support for an integrated transport network with 77% saying improvements of bus, tram, and train services would help to tackle congestion.

Most RAC members accept it is their responsibility to pay to maintain and improve the road network that they use. However they don’t believe they are getting value for money in terms of road maintenance and improvements for what they pay. The research shows that motorists are sceptical about the current tax system and there is considerable belief that not enough motoring tax is being invested back into the roads. 89% of motorists would like greater clarity on where motoring taxes are spent, with only 5% saying they trust their motoring taxes will be appropriately used.

Dr Tim Leunig, from the London School of Economics, said: “When motorists are paying more than £1,000 a year in specific motoring taxes, they have the right to expect roads to be properly maintained. RAC members are in line with expert opinion in preferring that motoring taxes are spent on small local schemes rather than grandiose visions that all too often fail to deliver the promised benefits.

“The government’s own figures show that inexpensive road schemes can generate an excess of £5 of economic benefits for every £1 spent. But rather than invest in these welfare enhancing schemes, the government spends only 24p of every £1 it receives in motoring taxes on our road network.”

RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink says: “British motorists constantly have to drive through congestion blackspots whilst having to pay more and more in motoring taxes for the privilege. Our survey of RAC members shows that they don’t expect grand, expensive schemes to ease congestion. Instead, 89% of our members would prefer to see more work done locally to improve the existing road network.

“Motorists understand the need to pay road taxes; they just don’t believe that they are getting value for money. It’s time that motorists got a fair deal with an efficient and well maintained road network.”

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