Wednesday 28 November 2012

What do we really want?

I have just read the latest edition of the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation's "Transpro" magazine.

Several things stood out for me in what is always an interesting read!

First, 50 years ago Brian Scuby of Frederick S Snow & Partners was writing in "The Highway Engineer" asking if the UK wanted to preserve its antiquated road system or embark on a road development plan far exceeding anything it has considered to date given that the USA had built thousands of multi level interchanges and the growth in car ownership.

Contrast this with a report on a recent London conference on the London Cycle Campaign's Go Dutch Campaign where the head of the Dutch Cycling Embassy, Roelof Wittink extolled the need to design highway systems with the needs of cyclists as a starting point.

There was then a report on the Department for Transport's consultation on raising the speed limit for HGVs (above 7.5 tonnes) from 40mph to 50mph on single carriageway roads subject to the National Speed Limit with some of the justification being that 70% of these vehicles travel over 40mph anyway and so they have an unfair advantage over those who stick to the rules.

There was coverage of various economic studies about the vital need to invest in maintaining our existing highway network and finally, there is a report on the Road Safety Foundation's worst 10 roads for crash risk.

What this single month's magazine shows me is that the UK really doesn't seem to want to get a grip on running its highways properly and doesn't do long-term planning.

We have tried to "predict and provide roads" and build our way out of congestion (after attempting to follow the 1960s version of road utopia from the USA) and it has failed. The newly widened Essex section of the M25 is getting weekly traffic jams already for example.

Many roads we have are suffering from decades of under-investment in maintenance and I wonder why this government is even thinking of major capital schemes ahead of making use of what we have.

With cycling, I sense a change is coming (for the better) where perhaps we might start to get it for many journeys which could be better made by bike (50% of journeys between 1 and 5 miles are made by car); but we still live in a crazy country which is still happy to kill and injure its citizens on the roads and we have a government department basically saying that because most lorry drivers are breaking the speed limit, we should raise it.

Welcome to the topsy turvy world of transport and highways in the UK!

No comments:

Post a Comment