The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced the Government’s transport strategy which includes a promise to, “Put the UK at the forefront of new transport technology.”
In a statement the Department for Transport says local roads are set to benefit from a share in a multi-billion pound improvement fund targeting cash at projects that help “rebalance the economy”.
Technology features frequently in the strategy with a comment that “technology is likely to remain one of the most significant drivers of global growth, but it can also have disruptive impacts to existing economic and social structures. The Government Office for Science’s annual report into innovation futures highlights a number of emerging technologies, including autonomous systems, big data, advanced materials and energy storage that could re-shape the future transport system. These are at different stages of development, and there is uncertainty around the extent to which they will be implemented. But they bring implications for production, consumption, population, mobility and behavioural trends.”
The report also notes that smart technology or traffic management systems can direct vehicles around the network more efficiently by providing real-time information, while Smart Motorways allow capacity and speed limits to be adjusted to even out heavy traffic, improving the reliability of the network more quickly and cost-effectively and that increasingly, technology gives us new ways to get more out of the infrastructure we have.
“We will strive to create a transport system that is innovative, built for the future, ready to embrace that change and puts the UK at the front of global technology,” the Government says in its strategy document. “So whenever we are investing to improve the network condition, tackle congestion, or enhance its connectivity, we need to do so in a way that anticipates change and future-proofs the network. That means creating incentives to promote investment into ultra low emission vehicle charging infrastructure; it’s why as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund we have committed £246 million over four years to help UK businesses seize the opportunities presented by the transition to a low carbon economy, to ensure the UK leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of batteries for the electrification of vehicles; and it means investing in research that support trials of new technologies, such as connected and autonomous vehicles, alongside ideas that identify better ways to provide information to customers and improve the management of the network.”
As expected, the strategy features the proposed creation of a new major road network, which would see a share of the annual National Road Fund, funded by Vehicle Excise Duty, given to local authorities to improve or replace the most important A roads under their management.
It also says the plans aim to improve productivity and connectivity of towns and cities across the country — tackling bottlenecks and traffic jams for road users, and “taking away the misery of lorries and through-traffic thundering through rural villages on main roads”.
The scheme will also aim to help people get to work or school by better connecting towns and cities, unlock land for new homes, and improve business links — forming a crucial strand of the government’s strategy to rebalance the economy by ensuring wealth is spread across the UK and not just concentrated in the south-east of England.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said, “Getting transport spending right is crucial for the country’s future. The transport investment strategy sets out a blueprint for how we can harness the power of transport investment to drive balanced economic growth, unlock new housing projects, and support the government’s modern industrial strategy. This government is taking the big transport decisions for Britain’s future like HS2 and Heathrow, while delivering the biggest investment in roads and rail for a generation. At the heart of our approach is a plan to make transport work for the people who use it and for the wider economy.”
The strategy sets out how investment can deliver what the Government calls a stronger, fairer Britain — with priority for projects which cut congestion, support growth, boost Britain’s global competitiveness or unlock new housing.
The proposals for the major road network respond to the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund study last year, which highlighted the disparity between the funding and planning of Britain’s motorways — the strategic road network — and local authority A roads.
The new plans mean that main roads currently overseen by local authorities would share the VED funded National Roads Fund which was previously envisaged to be ring-fenced for national routes. UK VED was £5.8 billion for 2016-17.