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Let's have a road network planned around people, not cars

Former campaigner's picture

As the Government consults on Major Road Network  plans, we’re calling for a network designed around people not cars. We want to see funding rules changed to include smaller schemes that will help all road users by cutting traffic.

The Government is consulting on defining a Major Road Network (MRN), identifying the busiest A-roads in the local authority network, and then targeting extra investment at them.

By focusing almost exclusively on roads, the proposals miss the opportunity to invest in many high quality smaller schemes that could help the existing roads work better, by cutting overall traffic. They also exclude road maintenance which is desperately in need of more funding.

We are calling for a better approach.

While we welcome broadening the Government's proposed roads fund to include local authority roads, we are concerned that limiting it to projects like big new bypasses and road widening will neglect the most important priorities, and could actually make transport worse.

We know that building roads just adds to traffic: instead of curing traffic congestion, it just moves the jams down to the next bottleneck.  Meanwhile providing infrastructure to encourage walking, cycling and bus use helps roads perform better for everyone, as well as improving the environment.

The current proposals limit the MRN spending to road projects over £20 million.  We say that’s too big a budget, focused on too narrow a range of projects.  There’s a real risk that schemes will be priced-up to qualify, taking even more potential funding away from more sustainable transport investment. Reducing the size of projects would enable more areas and a wider range of road users to benefit.

Instead, we say local councils should be able to access this vital funding to support a 'fix it first' approach, reducing the £12 billion local road maintenance backlog and improving safety.  Road user surveys confirm that better road surfacing, not new roads, is people’s top priority.

Potholes are a menace to all road users: putting more money into building yet more roads will simply add to the future local maintenance bill rather than making the roads we already have fit for purpose.

We also want to see the MRN funding allowed to include local packages of transport measures, including improvements to public transport, walking and cycling. Integrated packages will have a real impact on solving local congestion while helping councils cut CO2 and reduce air pollution, and as the Local Sustainable Transport Fund demonstrated, they are excellent value for money too.

To help deliver a truly resilient network, the plans must take account of climate change, tackling CO2 emissions as well as helping improve air quality. Simply expanding roads will only make things worse. We are calling for the MRN plans to be subject to a Strategic  Environmental Assessment, to ensure that we can improve transport without further damaging the environment.

Our consultation response has focused on the priorities for spending MRN funding. The consultation also asks about which major local roads should be included in the network; and which bodies can put forward proposals.  With renewed criticism of how some LEPs operate, we are keen to see that accountable local authorities are making the decisions.

Please join our call for a network designed around people not cars.

Consultation on the Major Road Network proposals runs until midnight on Monday 19 March. The Department for Transport consultation details are here, or you can use our easy online response.