MPs warn cash must be found for roads

INVESTMENT in Britain's crowded roads must continue despite the public spending squeeze and Government plans to develop high-speed rail, a report from MPs has warned.

A study of the country's major road network by the House of Commons Transport Committee has concluded it is "unacceptable" that parts of the country are discriminated against in terms of roads funding, and called for greater equity between the regions.

Figures released last year showed Yorkshire is the second-worst funded region in the country for major road improvements, receiving just five per cent of England's roads budget.

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The MPs also criticised the fact some 900 miles of trunk roads across England are still single carriageway, and said the Highway Agency should dual these "wherever possible" to improve both safety and journey times.

The committee criticised some councils' failure to maintain local routes better and said in certain cases control should be returned to the Highways Agency.

And the report also welcomed increased use of new technology such as variable speed limits to improve traffic flow along crowded motorways but warned the public must be given better information about why speeds were being cut.

The MPs concluded they "do not support a significant expansion of the major road network", but added that in certain cases new or wider motorways may be required as England "has one of the lowest motorway densities in Western Europe".

Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, welcomed this conclusion. "Good planning and smart use of technology are more likely to reduce congestion than road building," he said. "It's been well established that road building generates more traffic."

Paul Watters, the AA's head of roads policy, echoed the committee's call for roads funding not to be cut, saying: "Local authorities already have insufficient funds to maintain properly their existing road assets.