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Better roads and National Policy Statement on National Networks reports published

Joined-up planning for both passenger and freight traffic across road and rail infrastructure crucial for UK prosperity, says Transport Committee. 

Joined-up planning for both passenger and freight traffic across the UK’s road and rail infrastructure is crucial for future prosperity, warn MPs in two new reports.

Effective regulation and long-term funding plans are essential for investment in the strategic road network.

These are key conclusions from two reports issued today by the Transport Committee - one examining the proposed planning policy framework for nationally significant road and rail infrastructure projects (the “National Policy Statement on National Networks”) and the other examining the strategic road network in England.

Chair's comments

Launching the two reports Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Transport Committee, said today:

“The DfT must plan for new road and rail investment by looking at future passenger and freight demand by route or region, not by looking at road or rail in isolation from each other, as is done at the moment. 

“There must also be a more transparent system for road planning as part of a wider national transport strategy. As part of this, the DfT’s National Transport Model (NTM) should be subjected to proper scrutiny. The Department has already conceded that it does not work well for forecasting London traffic and needs to be reviewed.

“If our recommendations are overlooked the UK won’t develop the kind of transport infrastructure that it needs over the longer term.”

In their report examining the National Policy Statement on National Networks, MPs on the Transport Committee call on the DfT to:

  • specify more types of transport scheme that are needed–such as enhancements to promote regional economic development; better east-west connectivity on the railways; better road and rail connections to ports and airports and to parts of the country currently not well served by existing infrastructure.
  • be more candid about the adverse impacts of major transport schemes on local networks and localities. Provide clearer guidance about when the benefits arising from any scheme would justify such impacts.
  • address criticisms of the DfT’s road and rail demand forecasts more explicitly.
  • include an estimate of the impact on UK carbon emissions of meeting projected demand for growth in road traffic by building more road infrastructure.
  • make explicit reference to the desirability of connecting HS2 to the classic rail network, to ensure more people from around the UK can benefit from the new high speed line.
  • require promoters of roads schemes to embed improvements in road safety for all road users including pedestrians and cyclists. 

In a report looking at the strategic road network, the Committee concluded that the case for establishing the Highways Agency as a Government-owned company (GoCo) was not convincing.

Chair's comments

Commenting on this topic Louise Ellman said:

“The Committee strongly supports the five-year funding plans being introduced for the Agency, but is not convinced that it is necessary to change the Highways Agency’s status. The Government has decided to make this change so we call for a far stronger system of regulatory oversight than is currently proposed.

“The SRN is a crucial part of our national transport system but has suffered from inconsistent funding and policy over the past twenty years. If the traffic forecasts are correct, then Government will need to increase investment in the road network substantially over the next decade - a period when we also know that tax revenues from fuel duty are bound to decline as vehicles become more fuel efficient. Against that backdrop the Committee recognises the need for a consensus around how to raise the money required to modernise the UK’s road network.”

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