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New research shows road congestion will grow

6 July 2009
Congestion on motorways and trunk roads will get significantly worse unless the Government rethinks its transport policy, according to a new report published by the Campaign for Better Transport [1]. The report, which coincides with the start of the Department for Transport studies into transport corridors, recommends introducing a number of measures to manage demand for road space to tackle rising congestion.

The Campaign for Better Transport’s report, written by Phil Goodwin, Professor of Transport Policy at UWE Bristol, found that even if the Government had proceeded with plans to widen much of the M1 and M6 – now rejected as unaffordable – then major roads would still be more congested in 2025 than they were in 2003. Instead, the report recommends that Government rethinks its approach to transport planning, taking account of the impact of smaller journeys and urban and suburban traffic on major roads.

Using existing reports commissioned by central and regional Government, the report shows how simple packages of measures would cut congestion and increase journey times on motorways and trunk roads.

The report recommends that the Government adopt some of the measures recommended in official studies on tackling congestion, including:


  • Rolling out ‘smarter choices’ programmes, such as travel planning, information, marketing and advice, so that people can make informed decisions about how they travel;
  • Improving infrastructure and support for public transport, walking and cycling;
  • Adjusting the cost of different modes of transport to encourage people to walk, cycle or take public transport;
  • Reallocating road space to give priority to the most efficient, productive or socially needy road users;
  • Rolling out real-time information and control systems including dynamic traffic control (e.g. ‘green wave’ systems and intelligent traffic lights);
  • Improving land-use planning so that essential services are near where people live and work, eliminating the need for long journeys on already busy roads; and
  • Increasing support for advanced telecommunications systems, to help people work from home, shop online, meet via video-conferencing and improve the way councils manage transport systems.

Richard George, roads and climate campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said:


“No matter how wide we make our motorways, they’ll keep filling up, so we have to start giving people alternatives to driving if we don’t want the country to grind to a halt. This is especially true for towns and cities, where 89% of congestion occurs and where widespread road building simply cannot be an option.”

“We cannot build our way out of traffic jams, so it’s time to be tough on congestion and tough on the causes of congestion. Our report suggests some practical solutions which would provide alternatives to those who want them and improve journey times for those who have no option but to drive. If the Government were to follow our recommendations then all road users would benefit - and it would cost a lot less than road building.”

 Notes to editors

[1] Phil Goodwin's research, The Strategic Road Network Needs Strategic Policy Appraisal, (pdf 2.4M) was published today. We've also prepared a  companion document (pdf 53K).