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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 10:32 GMT
Are wider roads the answer?
The Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, has announced details of the biggest road-widening programme in 20 years.
Notorious bottlenecks on the M1 and M6 motorways have been targeted, with both roads getting an extra lane, taking them to four lanes wide.
The plans also include a £183m bored tunnel option for the upgrade of the A303 past Stonehenge in Wiltshire, to help protect the World Heritage Site from traffic.
The building programme has been widely welcomed by motoring organisations but criticised by environmentalists.
What do you think of the new proposals? Are wider motorways the answer? Or should the government do more to encourage people to use public transport?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Sue Boyce, Singapore
Not all of us can drive, but we have all been in a traffic jam. After studying Transport Economics for a term it is obvious that in the long term the policy of increasing road space does not work. We need a government who is brave enough to make radical decisions at the risk of being unpopular. Labour has a great opportunity whilst their majority is so great.
If you build more roads, people will buy more cars to fill them. It's only a matter of time before we are in gridlock. Why not invest more in the railways?
I love my car and driving it, but I'd rather go to and from work on the Sheffield Supertram if it came near where I live. But people living on the proposed new route don't want the disruption caused by construction near them, so instead I'll be stuck with the rest of the motorists on the overcrowded roads. There's no point using buses as it would take me 3 buses and over an hour each way to replace my current 12 mile journey.
Increasing the road systems is only really a stop-gap measure. I see the real solution by putting ALL long distance commercial freight on the rail system, taxing mobile caravans off the road and severely restricting and regulating the use of any remaining commercial vehicles. All foreign trucks passing through the UK should be completely banned from UK roads.
Mandy Orchard, UK
Let's face it, we DON'T want more railways or buses. We just want more roads, so we can drive as much as we like. Well I do, and so do most of my friends. I wouldn't get on a train or bus if it stopped outside of my house and took me to work and brought me home again at the exact time I wanted. I think you're all fooling yourselves,
"Oh yes I want lots of nice clean buses and trains, then I promise I'll leave my car at home." Rubbish! We're all the same, we love our cars.
We need more investment and better planning on public transport and a stiffer driving test. Aspiring motorists should be given the kind of test that motorcyclists go through. That would reduce the number of passes and we'd have less appalling motorists on the roads.
Great but surprised they weren't planning to improve the M3/M4 links to Bristol - it would help push up the value of Cherie's properties!
Roads, no roads, what difference does it make? The country went to hell in a hand basket years ago and no government policies, no matter which party makes them, is going to make the slightest difference. It's all done with a view to getting votes to keep them in a job. Get used to it.
In Singapore, the extremely high cost of vehicle ownership as well as the efficient public transport system has allowed traffic congestion problems to be kept at bay. By widening the roads, vehicle traffic flow is enhanced but would this be able to pacify the exponential growth in vehicle ownership?
I wish the government would stop the obsession of catching speeders and instead enforce a higher standard of driving on the UK's motorways. It would be cost-effective, reducing congestion and saving lives. Many drivers here seem completely unaware of lane discipline and speed control.
I am a student from China. I have seen some roads located in my city in China which have been widened. But, the increase in the number of lanes has still not been enough to fulfil the requirements of transport. We can build more roads, but the increase in population and numbers of car owners is faster.
Put it into the railways... Please.
Suggest the decision makers visit Houston, Texas. They are also addicted to cars and all that the wider freeways have done is make the traffic jams wider.
Living in the nearest village to Stonehenge, I find it incredible that they spend £31m on a road for tourists, while the kids in the infants school use temporary buildings whose heating will fail at least three times this winter.
The solution to cutting congestion? Ride a motorbike!
I do not think public transport activists realise how much it is going to cost. In the 1950s when the only way to move around for most people was by public transport there were a lot more local hospitals, schools, and shops. Large centralised hospitals did not work in those days because it was unrealistic to expect people to spend hours travelling to the hospital. Train drivers and bus drivers are in general not members of Greenpeace and will take great satisfaction in increasing their pay when they have the country held to ransom. We need roads and a lot more of them.
Where I live in Atlanta, we have eight lanes going in both directions and we still have horrid traffic and long delays at rush hour. When will our governments realise we cannot pave ourselves out of traffic? Believe me, Atlanta and the Georgia DOT have tried and tried, and they're still trying. It will never work - build light rail for commuters.
As a regular commuter between London and Manchester, I'm delighted that the M6 is being widened. I've lost count of the number of hours I've spent sitting in static traffic round Birmingham on the M6. But I've also tried public transport - which was a disaster.
I see the government's point. If
they drive around in ministerial
Jaguars, then of course they
need extra lanes. Mr Prescott
alone needs two.
Where I live (in Zurich) more than 60% of commuters use public transport every day. Rather than being a status symbol, excessive car use is a sign of being out of touch and committed motorists are often at the butt end of bad jokes. Such a system could be implemented anywhere else too. But instead of committing to a really useful public transport system, the UK has created a bogus system designed to pour money into the pockets of shareholders while changing absolutely nothing.
Jonathan Slack, England
Obviously, with the enormous jams that are an every day event on the roads specified, making them wider will help ease the jams. But a longer term fix is also required to be implemented at the same time. If you consider the substantial distances that many people cover daily going to and from work, I do believe that the time has come whereby the government needs to consider enabling employers when they take on new staff to give preference to those who live closer to their respective workplaces.
France has been building roads at a record speed. A recent three to five years old French road atlas is obsolete. The French charge tolls on their major roads and the whole system depends on supply and demand. Toll road systems work well also for other countries like Spain and Italy. Why don't we scrap the road tax like the Europeans, let the users pay. If nobody pays then we have no traffic to worry about.
What is initially needed is a better standard of driving. I suggest a two tier licence. Standard for urban roads and an additional one for motorways, requiring a separate test/fee. This will raise additional revenue and improve standards which should help curb congestion. Also encourage car sharing and pump some money into a more frequent reliable public transport system.
The reality is too many people need flexibility to keep pace with the rat race we all find ourselves in. Public transport is not going to ever match those needs. Unless car use is banned then you are never going to win this one. People like their own space and creature comforts. Buses, trains and taxis cannot viably compete. Sad but true.
The simple fact is that there are too many people in this country. The only long-term solution to traffic congestion (and many other environmental problems) is to reduce our population. This means encouraging small family sizes, and restricting immigration to an absolute minimum. Building new roads or improving public transport will only have a marginal impact in the face of a population that continues to grow both in numbers and in its desire to travel.
Motorists (and I am one, who does 2,500 miles per year) must accept they have no God-given right to jam-free roads. Why do we have to plough up large areas of countryside just so people can get from A to B quicker? Perhaps they should accept the jams as the price to pay for using the car.
Nick T, UK
It looks like the government has finally caved into the road lobby. This is unfortunate - imagine the improvements £2bn properly spent could reap on the rail network, itself now heavily congested with routes in need of "widening". Missing links left by BR could also be refilled helping rail compete more effectively with road.
Perhaps this government has a few missing links of its own?
Oh, let's just turn this country into a clone of Los Angeles, shall we? It's a stupid decision and all available evidence indicates this. A new, empty road is an attractive road - so more people will choose to make a journey on it, and adjust their lifestyles accordingly. In no time at all, it's no longer an empty road. Duh!
Well done government. As a lifelong country-dweller with a need for a decent road system, I'm very happy to contribute my taxes to road widening - as long as none of the new widened motorways get bus lanes. The next logical step is to introduce proper driving training so people don't cause congestion by poor driving.
Once again, Scotland seems to be getting ignored. The M74 needs to be finished, the 2 lane M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh is a joke, the M80 still hasn't been completed, and the A1 link between Edinburgh and Newcastle is just awful. All these roads suffered by being ignored under 18 years of the Tories. When are the government going to bring Scotland's roads up to 1980's standards, let alone 2000's standards?!?
It's about time Friends of the Earth and the other so-called "environmental groups" started living in the real world rather than some fantasy preservationist version of it. How about considering the environment of those people who live near the roads that NEED improving? And what about some credit for the wildlife benefits of road improvements?
Andy H, Lacock, England
Let's face the facts. We live in a small country and most of the population is concentrated in certain parts of England. Congestion is the cost of economic growth and we are only going to build our way out of it. More roads, more railways, more airports. Pretty soon large parts of the country will concreted over like Los Angeles or New York, but that's progress for you.
I live in the North East, but work on a contract down in the South East. To do the journey by rail or coach would take approx 10 - 15 hrs. By car, it takes approx 5.5 to 6 hrs to the journey and costs less. I do not commute each day, that would be lunacy. How would an improved public transport system help me?
NK, UK I work for a major European haulage company. Weight for weight our lorries are far more environmentally friendly than cars with their performance increasing all the time. OK, yes, we do damage the roads far more, but we do pay thousands per truck per year in vehicle tax to pay for it.
I argue we need more roads, but we need to control access to those roads. The bus lane on the M4 in London has been a sterling success. These should be added to many motorways all over the country to reduce car access. The lorries should have access to these lanes too - they need to keep moving freight around. I assure you we don't drive trucks around the country for fun.
Completely the wrong option. Spend the money on public transport, after all it's what the government promised and what they will be measured by at the next election. If car drivers can't move during the rush hour then it's their choice!
About time, too! We also need much better access roads into London, particularly from Kent. I suggest a new four-lane motorway from the M20 to Tower Bridge. Extend the M1 down to Marble Arch, too, please.
For a start the government should do more to encourage children to walk, cycle or go by bus to school (as they always did) and scrap that stupid road clogging 'school run'.
More roads? No thank you. We've lost enough countryside, hedgerows and grass verges as it is.
Tom Muir, Scotland
It's quite obvious that these tree-hugging environmentalists don't drive on the motorways and simply have no idea just how bad the congestion is.
The suggestion that wider roads will produce more traffic is utter rot; the "extra" that they keep muttering about isn't going to magically appear out of thin air. Drivers will take the quickest, most convenient route between A and B and if that is a new, widened motorway instead of country lanes through villages, so much the better.
Road transport in Britain will not improve until the government confronts the hauliers. It is lorries - oversized, thundering lorries - that cause disproportionate problems on British roads, from accidents to pollution to road surface damage. Improve the railways, shift long-distance freight to rail and introduce legislation limiting the size of lorries and the distances they are permitted to transport freight by road. That will both improve our roads and give a much-needed boost to our crumbling railroads.
It is the answer - at least in the short term. People who live in cities have no idea how ridiculous the suggestion of a public transport solution is to those of us in rural areas. Personal transportation isn't a lifestyle choice - it's a necessity for all but city folk.
The main investment in roads should be put in routes where public transport is not practical - cross country and around major cities. The radial infrastructure, both road and rail, is already very good. Roads like the M25, M6/M5/M42/M45 around Birmingham, etc are where traffic flows desperately need to be improved.
It's hard to see what else can be done whilst waiting for the snail pace of change in the railways to take place. Bring back British Rail, or hasten on the development of those hover cars the 1950's promised us!
Road widening - you mean countryside narrowing.
I can't believe it. Studies and experience have shown us that road building creates traffic, yet the government, and the ever-vocal motoring lobby, seem intent on blindly ignoring that fact and carry on regardless. This is a kick in the teeth for integrated transport.
Yet another U-turn on policy. What happened to the government's big ten year plan to vastly improve the infrastructure of public transport? According to these new road plans, some train services will be cut further. I really do despair. Is there anything from New Labour that I can really believe in anymore? How much of the environment has to be destroyed and how much more pollution will vehicles be allowed to produce before there is one day a truly dedicated government that takes responsibility and starts to reverse the process?
A great step in the right direction, but it's not only the arterial routes which need upgrading but the roads and junctions which connect to them. There is after all no point in having all these motorways if you can't get to them. This is a great day for the economy and for Great Britain but more is needed.
At last, some of the huge amount of petrol tax actually being put back into the road system as promised.
10 Dec 02 | England
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