Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Freight And Shipping Groups Watch Latest UK Road Plans

Infrastructure Development under the Spotlight
Shipping News Feature

UK – Today saw the publication of the Transport Select Committee’s report on the Major Road Network. This is the latest study into the current state and future management requirements of Britain’s chief highways and is of particular interest to hauliers and those involved in the shipping industry who are facing a period of uncertainty given the threat of cuts to publicly funded schemes in the light of the political rhetoric which precedes the imminent General Election.

There were 50,310 km (31,261miles) of major roads in Great Britain when the initial request was made to all interested parties to make submissions regarding their view as to the development of the network, with the closing date set at the 14th January 2009. Today a full report has been published setting out the Committee’s perception of the future of the road network and their comprehension that it is a vital and integral part of the overall transport infrastructure required in the UK.

Numerous people have submitted their own perceptions and observations that go toward the 229 page report and this naturally produces a confusing overall view which readers can sometimes interpret in a way which supports their own views. Many criticised the lack of local authority funding for maintenance of secondary roads and the fear is that, with less Government money likely to be available for the foreseeable future, main arterial routes may soon suffer the same problems.

The current report follows the recent High Speed Rail review published earlier this month but, more importantly from a freight perspective, the earlier papers, Roads—Delivering Choice and Reliability (published July 2008) and Delivering a Sustainable Transport System (November 2008) both of which referred back to (as does this study) the influential Eddington Transport Study, published in December 2006, which examined the potential for strategic transport decisions to affect the productivity, stability and growth of the UK economy over the next 30 years. This report argued that the investment decision-making process should be “modally agnostic” rather than declaring a particular mode of transport as preferable to other modes. Eddington concluded that relatively small investments, often favouring roads, tended to yield greater benefits, relative to costs, as compared to ‘grand projects’ such as high speed rail.

This latest report seems to conclude that Britain has a roughly correct geographical network, with the major routes placed in suitably strategic positions, but that the size of the carriageways are often insufficient to support the burgeoning weight of traffic they are now required to accommodate.

The Road Haulage Association have agreed with certain of the reports conclusions stating that in particular new investment to construct and upgrade motorways is necessary with transparency and responsibility in respect to the shortage of cash for maintaining local authority roads. The RHA calls for re-trunking of certain roads to be considered and urges the Highways Agency to minimise delays caused by road closures due to essential maintenance work and to look for ways to improve communication with road users.

Interested parties are advised that they can access the entire report The Major Road Network - here.