Zoom. You chase the day away
In his debut blog for FleetPoint, Keith Hellawell looks at potential solutions for the UK’s gridlock issues
It is estimated that Britain will lose £300 billion to gridlock over the next 16 years and motorists already spend an average of four days a year stuck in jams.
If these trends continue, the country could be brought to a standstill by 2030 unless we take the necessary action.
These startling facts come according to a new report for the Centre for Economics and Business Research, and while Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has a very busy in-tray as the new Tory government gets its feet under the table, there are a few simple measures that would help to get Britain moving.
Here’s five observations for how we could make our roads faster and safer:
1. Raise motorway limits to 80mph outside of peaks time.
I drive a lot in France where the autoroute limit of 130kmph is 11 miles an hour quicker than the British motorways 70mph limit. French motorways are some of the safest roads in the world and this higher limit works very well over the Channel.
2. We need further investment in road infrastructure.
There is no doubt that our key motorways – particularly the M1, M6, M62, M25, M42 and M40 – are simply are not big enough to cope with the volume traffic. There have been improvements to the M6 and the M1 with both switching to four lanes in many places but every day they grind to a halt through the sheer volume of traffic.
That traffic flow is being improved by limiting speed to 40mph and 50mph through cameras at peak times. Traffic volumes have increased by 20% of the last 10 years, according to the Government’s own figures. With the population increasing all the time, we need bigger roads.
3. Stick with the new HS2 high speed rail link
Though it is hugely controversial, cutting a swathe through Middle England, and many people feel that at a total cost of £43 billion it is too much and the money could be better spent on less ambitious improvements to the rail network. Britain is crying out for a world class North-South railway with trains travelling at 250mph. Major investment in public transport will create more space on our roads.
4. More urban 20mph speed limits
While there is a convincing case for increasing motorway speed limits, I think there is an equally compelling case for lowering limits in built up urban areas to 20mph.
Road deaths in the UK are at their lowest levels since 1926 – but 1,700 people a year are still being killed each year on our roads and no matter how you look at it that is not a good statistic.
5. Keep the speed cameras rolling
Our roads have never been busier but they have also never been safer. It obvious that speed cameras have played a crucial role in killing speed. Motorists may hate them but they certainly don’t ignore them. Hauliers who fit cameras in their fleets have seen a 80% fall in the accident rates, according to figures from SmartWitness and there is no doubt that cameras save lives.
Dr Keith Hellawell is a non-executive chairman of SmartWitness, Britain’s leading vehicle CCTV firm. Before joining the company he enjoyed a distinguished career in the police culminating in his appointment as Chief Constable of Cleveland and then West Yorkshire.