The massive transport programme announced last summer will save the average driver just one minute a week for every 10 billion pound sterling invested in roads, according to the government´s former chief adviser on transport
The massive transport programme announced last summer will save the average driver just one minute a week for every 10 billion pound sterling invested in roads, according to the government´s former chief adviser on transport.
The analysis by Professor Phil Goodwin suggests that according to the government´s own figures, increasing traffic will actually make congestion worse on motorways, in small towns and in the countryside.
What is more, he says ministers have massively under-estimated the effect that the forecast 20% cut in motoring costs will have on demand for driving. His report will prove embarrassing for the government, as Prof Goodwin is one of Europe´s top transport economists. His analysis published today by the Council for the Protection of Rural England is the first major review of the 10-year plan, which was warmly received last year as proof that the government was taking transport seriously.
The 10-year plan promised that a 60 billion pound sterling investment in roads would ensure that congestion was cut - even though more people would be driving. But Goodwin´s analysis suggests that even the London drivers who will benefit most will save only 12 seconds a mile (thanks to bus lanes and congestion charging). In other cities drivers will save 3 seconds a mile - and on inter-urban trunk roads, as little as one second a mile. On motorways, in small towns and in the countryside things will get marginally worse.
A government spokesman did not deny the figures - but said any driver time-saving was a substantial achievement, as their projections suggest that without the investment congestion would have risen by 28% on inter-urban roads.
But Professor Goodwin sees this as an example of spin. He thinks the government methodology which shows congestion in percentage terms is meaningless, and says that with or without the roads programme the changes in real average journey time are so small that they would not be noticed by the average driver.
Prof Goodwin maintains that the most effective way to cut demand for congested roads is to charge for using them. The Tories´ accusations that the government is anti-car have turned ministers away from this policy option.
Edmund King of the RAC Foundation says drivers will welcome any time-savings, however small. It was simply not acceptable to let things continue getting worse.
Lilli Matson of the CPRE says the new figures call into question the need for the environmental destruction involved in the government´s roads programme.