MPs call for big rise in road and rail investment


Work on the North Doncaster Chord, a rail project. Photo: Network Rail

Government will have to substantially increase investment in road construction over the next decade and improve road planning as part of an integrated national transport policy, according to MPs.


Two reports from the House of Commons Transport Select Committee – one examining the government’s proposed planning policy framework for nationally significant road and rail infrastructure, and the other England’s strategic road network (SRN) – are critical of current investment levels and future plans. A ‘joined up’ planning approach for passenger and freight traffic on road and rail is crucial for future prosperity, the MPs warn.


The substantial investments needed will demand new long term funding streams, possibly involving controversial road user charging, and an end to the inconsistent funding and policy changes that the road network has suffered from for 20 years. These investments will benefit employment figures by creating thousands of construction jobs over the next 15 years.


The MPs say 46% growth in road traffic by 2040 cannot be coped with by the existing SRN and that a more integrated approach to planning is needed so road projects are not considered in isolation. Passenger and freight traffic across road and rail should be considered when planning transport investments.


The MPs also say they are not convinced by the plans to change the status of the Highways Agency to a government owned company – a GoCo – and it should be supervised by a strong regulatory body.


Transport Committee chair Louise Ellman, said: “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.”


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