10 Nov 2014

£15 Billion To Be Spent On New Roads In The UK

At long last the government has announced a huge spending programme on our creaking road infrastructure. This can only be a good thing.

Take a look at the papers and the headlines about transport normally speak about trains. Billions being spent on HS2, contracts being awarded for this line and the other, train lines being electrified, a new train line across London.

Who cares. Trains are horrible. Train stations are in cities, where you can't park. You can't control the climate, you have to sit next to strangers, you often have to stand up, you can only take what you can carry, trains smell.

Cars are much better in every way, but cars are seen as not very eco-friendly so politicians ignore them and blather on about trains.

But, good news! The Prime Minister has announced that £15 billion will be spent on 100 major road projects by 2020.

Of course this is blatant appeasement for marginal Tory seats ahead of the 2015 general election but who cares when we overtaxed, forgotten motorists get more and better roads.

Cars are and will remain the transport of choice in the UK. They are increasingly eco-friendly and will, within a few years, be as clean as trains to run.  They're also becoming safer.  They already are cheaper to run than taking the train and they offer a level of choice that trains simply cannot in terms of the car we buy and the route we take.

Technology allows us to by-pass traffic jams, to eke out ever more miles per gallon and to find, and park in, a parking space.

Speaking at the CBI's annual conference David Cameron said, “At its heart (the autumn statement) is the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching road improvement programme in four decades - over 100 improvements to our major roads. 

Hundreds of extra lane miles on our motorways and trunk roads, the green light given to major projects that have been stalled for years. There will be action to improve some of the most important arteries in our country – like the A303, A1 and A27 – which for too long have held parts of our country back, all underpinned by £15 billion worth of spending.”

The one that caught my eye is the A303, because I use it regularly. Some sections are wonderful - smooth, flowing two-lane blacktop with epic views across Wiltshire and Somerset - but some are dreadful with pinch-points and regular traffic black-spots. It's been crying out for upgrades for years.

The A303 is still a better proposition than taking the train as it leads to the south west, where train travel is just not sensible.

The North West is also blighted with a terrible road network. The A556 is the major trunk road from Cheshire and into Manchester, via the M56, but it's a horrible road with queues its entire length on some days.  Similarly the M60, M6, M62, M42, M1, M4 and M25 are all dreadful - overcrowded and underpoliced.

The powers that be have applied a sticking plaster to a wound when they decided the solution to our woes is to infest our motorways with cameras and average speed limits.

It isn't, the answer is to build more roads. There is no better illustrated of this than when you take the M42 (nasty, cameras and queues galore) and then pay a few quid to drive on the M6 Toll (glorious, fast, open).

It doesn't matter why the politicians have finally decided to spend some of the cash that we motorists pay on our roads. What matters is that they have, and for that we should all be joyful.

By Matt Hubbard