Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Not Asking for Anything Radical -- Just to Go Ofroad

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Not Asking for Anything Radical -- Just to Go Ofroad

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Blackhurst City Editor

WE'RE crawling along on the M25, both sides of the motorway clogged as far as the eye can see. The radio is surprisingly cheerful, telling us that "so far things are looking normal for a Friday evening on the M25".

"Normal". That's what it is, apparently, when a journey from the South to the North of England takes seven hours. For most of that time, we're stopping and starting, for long periods not getting over 20 mph.

Often there is no explanation, save for "volume of traffic". It's like this every Friday, probably every weekday. Yet we do nothing about it.

That's where we are with roads in this country: they're in a state of permanent sclerosis but as a nation our attitude is one of complacency. Anyone looking for a large-scale road-improvement programme from the Government will be disappointed. Indeed, worse than that, roads are already among the items to be cut.

Under the previous administration, the emphasis was on trains. Railways were regarded as more of a good thing -- they were cleaner and quicker. In 2007, Labour ordered a huge investment in railways. Now, the National Audit Office has come out, questioning the need for the expansion -- passenger numbers have not grown as expected.

Meanwhile, the roads languish, unloved by Whitehall, overused by the public. Fed up with my Friday night experience, I met Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation -- the road-user think tank. "The future appears bleak," he says. "Our transport system is already at capacity. The road network in particular is creaking, and once we emerge from the current recession, traffic will increase; driven by a rising population and renewed economic growth."

When all the different forms of road tax are taken onto account -- car tax, fuel duty, company car levy -- the amount that road users contribute to the Exchequer each year is [pounds sterling]47 billion.

What's the current spend on road building and maintenance? …

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