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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008, 03:33 GMT
British roads 'unfit for purpose'
A traffic jam
The study says British roads are the most congested in Europe
Britain's transport infrastructure is "not fit for purpose", according to the Policy Exchange think tank.

It said Britain has the most congested roads, the fewest motorways and "some of the worst public transport" among leading industrialised countries.

But in a report, it said "relatively small" road charging on congestion hotspots would soon fund improvements.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the government was making record investments in transport.

The future cost of congestion is likely to exceed the current 20bn a year and the problem is now endemic, affecting not just large cities but also motorways and small towns, Policy Exchange said.

Lane widening

It said a six-hour, peak-time weekday charge of 10p per kilometre on a six-lane motorway, priced to run close to capacity, could raise about 1.5m per km annually.

Despite relatively low car ownership, we have more cars per motorway mile than any of the other 25 EU countries and the worst congestion
Edmund King, AA president

This would be enough to pay for widening to eight lanes or construction of a brand new six-lane motorway in parallel, it argued.

Policy Exchange chief economist Dr Oliver Hartwich said: "Britain's transport infrastructure is, quite simply, not fit for purpose and unable to meet the needs of a modern country.

"Transport infrastructure investment has become detached from consumer demand.

"The greatest barrier to pricing is public opinion. Having endured decades of special taxation for the benefit of general spending, motorists do not trust governments to introduce pricing from which they will benefit."


AA president Edmund King said motorists were being "hit from all sides" with "record fuel prices, record motoring tax levels and record congestion".

"Despite relatively low car ownership, we have more cars per motorway mile than any of the other EU countries and the worst congestion," he said.

"As a matter of priority, we need to increase the current level of investment in order to reduce congestion and vehicle emissions."

A Department for Transport spokesman said the government was spending about 900m on improvements to major roads this year, including improvements to the M1 and M25.

A spokesman said: "However, we know we cannot simply build our way out of congestion.

"Road pricing - alongside public transport improvements - has the potential to cut predicted congestion growth by nearly half.

"That is why we are working with local authorities who want to develop local schemes and exploring pricing as a concept."

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