The major road network (HC 533-ii)
Transport Committee 24 Jun 2009
Evidence given by RAC Foundation: Stephen Glaister, Director; The Automobile Association: Edmund King, AA President; Road Users Alliance: Tim Green, Director Road Haulage Association Ltd: Jack Semple, Director of Policy; British Chambers of Commerce: Gareth Elliott, BCC Senior Policy Adviser; Advantage West Midlands representing ERDA Mick Laverty, Chief Executive
Q94 Mr. David Clelland: Stephen Glaister did not particularly like the term "fit for purpose" but if we were to say, for instance, that one of the purposes of the major road network is to ensure that all of the major conurbations are properly linked, is it then fit for purpose?
Mr Glaister: Yes, I believe that you can document that. I appeal to the Eddington Review - and I am sure I shall mention that several times - which is an independent piece done for the Chancellor and Prime Minister, looked at this kind of thing very thoroughly and broadly speaking concluded that the connectivity of the road network was what it needed to be. Plainly, things are connected to each other. The difficulty he identified is that in some places there is not enough capacity. There is a road, but you cannot use it reliably. Of course it is true, as Edmund has indicated, that at many times of the day and in many parts of the country there is absolutely no problem. On the other hand, where businesses are active or where the population is very large, the road network is just not providing that capacity for a guaranteed level of service.
Mr King: I do think, though, there is still a couple of missing gaps in the network. If you look at East Anglia, there still is not a fully dual road through to Norwich or the port of Great Yarmouth so you have still got gaps there. If you look at the A1 north of Newcastle up to Scotland you have still got a single carriageway road which is incredibly dangerous and there are all sorts of signs about speed cameras, dangers and numbers of accidents. The best thing we can do is to dual it and all the evidence shows it would be safer. There are parts in the south west of the country again where you have got missing links around Stonehenge, where we could have had a tunnel, for example. So we have broadly got a network but there are some missing links and if those were filled in it would make the whole network much more efficient.
Q109 Mr. David Clelland: Should three lanes plus a hard shoulder be a minimum standard for motorways in the UK in the twenty-first century?
Mr Glaister: I do not believe so, no. I think you need to do the assessment and take a sensible view about how much traffic there is. In some places three lanes and a hard shoulder will not be enough; in other places it will be more than you need. I know that is not a precise science and you have to recognise that in design. So if you decide that two lanes and a hard shoulder would be adequate, I think the intelligent way to design the road is to make the bridges wider than you would need so that if you get it wrong in the future you can easily widen the road to give you the extra highway. They do this in some parts of the world. I know they do in Portugal.
Q110 Mr. David Clelland: Do you think, despite the growth forecasts you have just been telling us about, that is still adequate?
Mr Glaister: It depends because it is also geographically specific. People are moving from particular places to particular other places and it would not make sense to impose perhaps a uniform standard which was over-designed in situations where you actually would not need the capacity.
Q111 Mr. David Clelland: When the final section of the A1(M) from Dishforth to Scotch Corner is completed - and construction is going on as we speak - that will give a three lane motorway from London up the M1 all the way up to Scotch Corner, where it will then drop to a two lane motorway. Would that be a disadvantage to the northern region in any way?
Mr Glaister: I can see it might be. I am afraid I do not know that geography. I do know something about the A12, which I was involved with, an inquiry into the way that road works and that is a road which goes from three to two, from three to two, for historical reasons. It is a very heavily used road and it is a dangerous road for that reason because you have got the interweaving, and so on. That is a very uncomfortable situation and unsatisfactory because the traffic is so heavy.
Mr King: I think the strategy over motorways at the moment and widening is in danger of backfiring somewhat in that there is now quite a reliance on hard shoulder running as was used on the M42, but there are plans for bits of the M25, bits of the M1 and bits of the M4. The problem with that is in the short-term it can give some extra flow, some extra capacity, but in the long-term once you have used that hard shoulder the benefits have gone, whereas obviously if you are adding an extra lane and then if the traffic flows increase as forecast you have got more capacity. It is harder then to widen.
Q112 Mr. David Clelland: I was going to ask whether hard shoulder running should be extended to other sections of the motorway network?
Mr King: Yes. I think there are some areas which are close to urban areas where the traffic speeds tend to be lower anyway where you can regulate, using the hard shoulder, relatively, so in some circumstances. I think the problem at the moment is that it is kind of seen as widening on the cheap and I think that is a problem which will leave us with more problems in the future.
Mr Glaister: Yes. It also does not deal with the junctions and a lot of the problem is not the road itself but getting onto the road and the access roads onto the motorway, so it is all very well to give you some more capacity on the through run on the motorway but if you do not worry about how people get onto it and provide neighbouring access then you have still got a problem.
Mr Green: You mentioned the hard shoulder. I think the data for dual carriageway road safety versus motorway road safety indicates that there are things about the motorway which make them about twice as safe as a dual carriageway and I would say one of those is the hard shoulder. Having myself had a blow-out on a dual carriageway trunk road which had no hard shoulder, I could not deal with that safely at all. It was an extremely hazardous situation and there was no adjacent lay-by either which I could have gone to in an emergency. So in that sense certainly the hard shoulder is a vital constituent of any serious road. I would certainly support the idea that during peak hours if you have got that hard shoulder and you are going to have slow moving traffic anyway, you might as well use that as a general carriageway to add to the capacity of the road during those peak hours.
Q113 Mr. David Clelland: What criteria should be used then to assess whether a stretch of road is suitable for hard shoulder running?
Mr Green: I think the sheer volume of traffic is the essential assessment because the sheer volume of traffic will also feed through to average speeds and things like that. So, yes, I would say that was what you do in terms of all capacity. How many vehicles is it designed to carry and how many will use it?
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
The full transcript may be read here.
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