roads to contain congestion - driving into the future
what would it take to sort out the escalating congestion problem uk roads? not as much as you might think.
Is the escalating congestion problem congestion on UK roads impossible to solve? Apparently not. In fact, according to a study by independent consultants Halcrow, the Government would need to increase the total land taken by roads by less than 3% in order to avoid worse congestion on motorways and trunk roads by 2031. Only an extra 0.05% of land area would be needed for these road improvements.
In the report, an overall 46% increase in road traffic by 2031 is broken down by Government Office Region and compared with the capacity of today's trunk roads. From this, an estimate is made of the extra trunk road capacity required to accommodate this additional traffic. This gives an indication of the sort of expansion that would be needed to match trunk road capacity to traffic growth over the next three decades.
The additional capacity required is estimated to be the equivalent of about seven hundred and fifty kilometres of new dual three lane Motorways and a similar length of new trunk roads. This is equivalent to a 25% expansion of the existing Motorway network. In practice, much of the additional Motorway capacity would be provided by expanding roads in existing corridors.
Where open construction would be damaging to the local environment, it is proposed that roads should be put in tunnels. However, these are more costly than open construction, ranging from £30m to £100m per kilometre for twin two lane tunnels and from £50m to £160m for twin three lane tunnels. Different construction methods have been examined in the light of the topographical and geological conditions in the types of areas where it is thought which tunnels would be constructed. It has also been assumed that tunnels would be frequently used to increase junction capacity where heavily used major roads cross each other and surface intersections would not be able to cope.
The cost estimates are based on the additional capacity being provided by:
- 600kms of new Motorways in open construction
- 150kms of new Motorways in tunnel
- 600kms of new trunk roads in open construction
- 150kms of new trunk roads in tunnel
- 850kms of widened Motorways
- 400kms of widened trunk roads;
All this along with associated junction enlargements, widening of feeder roads where necessary, environmental enhancements to existing routes and appropriate highway management systems.
And the cost in question? Well, it's estimated to come to about £70bn - equivalent to spending £2.4bn annually between now and 2031.
A rough assessment of the 'macro impacts' of such a policy has been made and this concludes that:
- The required annual investment rate would be about 50% higher than provided
for in the government's Ten Year Plan and would have to be sustained over three
decades. Motoring taxes easily cover this increase.
- Construction effort would be no more than was achieved on the Motorway
programme during the 1970s but tunnelling effort would be greater.
- The additional capacity would require about 70 kms2 of land to be taken for
roads. This would increase the amount of land used for roads (about 1.4% of the
total in England) by less than 3%. This amounts to about 0.05% of the surface
area of England. However local problems of land appropriation would be much
- The expanded network would mean that Motorway provision would be about half
the European average in respect of population, traffic and economic activity.
In relation to land area, Motorway provision would be increased to about 12%
above the EU average.
There's no doubt that this study has moved things forward in terms of future UK road network planning. It shows that practical improvements to the road network are both affordable and can be constructed to the highest environmental standards. As the motorist is already contributing some £41 billion in motoring taxes each year, an improvement programme of this magnitude over thirty years would be excellent value for money. Let's hope the government acts on it.