The strategic road network needs strategic policy appraisal

The UK Government aims to improve travel conditions on the ‘strategic road network’, usually defined as the motorways and some trunk roads which provide for longer distance road travel. Discussions on the function of this network usually feature the economic importance of movements of freight to and from ports, and between the major cities of the UK. In all forecasts and appraisals, all traffic which is using the ‘long-distance’ roads is included indiscriminately, even if it is just making short hops on the motorway as part of a mainly urban journey. Yet at the same time, all policies in the urban areas which have an effect on the volume of that traffic are ignored. True consensus is impossible because two incompatible approaches are being pursued at the same time; more traffic is expected to pour off the motorways onto local roads which cannot cope with it (but is ignored), and more traffic is expected to come from the cities onto the motorways than is consistent with the implementation of sustainable transport policies (which are also ignored). This is shown in detail in an analysis of the current Government proposals for rolling out Hard Shoulder Running on some hundreds of miles of motorway. A simplified assessment says that this would provide benefits of increased speed at much lower cost than motorway widening, and only very small increases in carbon emissions. The Department for Transport estimates a resulting 17% increase in traffic speed, ie faster by 10 mph. But on closer examination, the figures show that the forecast peak period motorway speed, even with the full programme of hard-shoulder running and widening successfully in place, would actually be 2 mph less in 2025 than it was in 2003, not 10 mph more. The benefit only resides in the statement that otherwise the speed reductions would be even greater. A different sort of appraisal – a more genuinely strategic one – is suggested. This would treat motorways and trunk roads not as a separate network, but as part of an integrated transport system which includes alternative methods of transport between the cities, and alternative local and regional policies within and around the cities. Appraisal of projects which are aimed at providing extra capacity on the motorways would proceed from the new traffic patterns which will arise from the new policies, not from extrapolation of the old trends which the Government is seeking to change.

  • Authors:
    • GOODWIN, P
  • Publication Date: 2009


  • English

Media Info

  • Pagination: 42p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01141199
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: TRL
  • Files: ITRD
  • Created Date: Sep 30 2009 9:09AM