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Is Lack of Spending on Roads Causing Accidents?

By: Kevin Dowling BA (IMC) - Updated: 11 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Lack Spending Roads Accidents Traffic

A worrying lack of investment in Britain’s roads is being blamed for increased road congestion and, as a result more traffic accidents.

A recent report by the Road Users’ Alliance (RUA) has claimed that chronic underinvestment from previous governments – not just the most recent Labour government - is starting to have a detrimental effect on Britain’s roads.

They claim that traffic congestion has spiralled dangerously out of control in recent years and as a result, Britain’s drivers are finding themselves increasingly frustrated and endangered by a number of different road-related issues.

For example, traffic bottlenecks, ‘rat-runs’ located close to schools, badly designed junctions and a lack of motorway space are all leaving drivers stranded in traffic jams, and encouraging them to drive beyond speeding limits in a bid to make up for lost time.

As a result, the RUA believes that this underinvestment in British roads is actually costing the UK economy as much as £8 billion a year in lost productivity.

The unsurprising result is more traffic jams, higher costs for industry, longer commuting and other journeys and, of course, more greenhouse gasses from those queuing vehicles. While roads account for 92% of passenger travel most of Government spending has been on rail.

Why is the Government Failing to Maintain Britain’s Roads?

The frustration of the RUA largely comes from the unfairness of the government’s road neglect. After all, the government collects more than £40 billion a year from motorists in road tax.

Unfortunately, of this income, it is estimated that just £4 billion a year is invested back into improving UK roads. Clearly most of the tax extracted from drivers ends up going into other areas of the UK economy.

This underinvestment in the road network has left the UK with a transport system which is uncompetitive, congested, left vulnerable to accidents and fatalities and woefully inadequate when it comes to servicing the needs of the country’s economic infrastructure.

The bad news is that Britain’s roads are getting even more congested. It is estimated that the number of drivers will increase by up to a third over the next 15 years, which in turn will cause road congestion to increase by a staggering 37 per cent, according to RUA research.

Traffic levels have risen by 11 per cent in the past decade alone, but the road network has only grown 1.5 per cent in the same timeframe.

So what can the Government do about the Road Network?

Last year Labour Ministers made a commitment to increase road spending from £4 billion a year to £6 billion by 2012.

A large proportion of this money will be used to extend motorways, adding hard shoulders and increasing the number of lanes. Such a development has been underway on the M1 over the last few months, much to the annoyance of most of the motorway’s regular users.

The RUA, however, believes that it would take a further £4billion in spending to do the necessary work in removing traffic bottlenecks and improving junctions, some of the major causes of modern road accidents. The savings these measures would bring to the UK economy could be worth double that amount.

Whether future governments will increase this spending further remains to be seen, but with major political parties basing their policy proposals on reducing public spending, the answer is expected to be negative.

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