A new Deal for Transport Better for Everyone The Government's White Paper on the Future of Transport Contents Foreword Acknowledgements Scope of the White Paper part I chapter 1: a new Deal for Transport part II chapter 2: Sustainable Transport Chapter

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Making better use of trunk roads

This White Paper sets a new course for roads policy. The days of 'predict and provide' are over - we will give top priority to improving the maintenance and management of existing roads before building new ones. Our New Deal for transport means a better managed road network so that it delivers a high quality service to the road user.

Roads are currently a major source of frustration for drivers, both private and commercial. Parts of the trunk road network are under considerable stress. To tackle this sustainably we need to get all modes of transport and land use planning working together. This is why we made integration one of the five criteria in our review of trunk road policy and of the roads programme we inherited. It is also why it is important that we should bring trunk roads within the regional planning process in England (see Chapter 4). All decisions on road investment will be taken in the context of our integrated transport policy.
Investment strategy
In the past, the focus of investment has been on building new roads at the expense of managing existing ones. We will change the priority and provide a coherent programme for improving the service offered by trunk roads.12 We will look at trunk roads in their wider context, and at the part they play in those transport corridors which include road and rail routes. Our priorities for trunk roads will complement improvements to inter-urban travel, by rail in particular, so that they form part of an integrated approach. We will:

  • improve road maintenance, making it our first priority. Skimping on maintenance wastes money. If maintenance is delayed too long structural damage is done and much more expensive and highly disruptive repairs are required;

  • make the best use of the roads we have already by investing in network control and traffic management measures and in minor improvements. This will include giving priority in specific locations to certain types of traffic, including buses and coaches and heavy goods vehicles;

  • promote carefully targeted capacity improvements to address existing congestion on the network, where they support our integrated transport policy.

Since new roads can lead to more traffic, adding to the problem not reducing it, all plausible options need to be considered before a new road is built. Carefully targeted improvements to existing roads will be considered, generally as part of wider packages including traffic management measures. Traffic calming and measures to reduce traffic will also be considered in conjunction with, and as alternatives to, the construction of bypasses for towns and villages.

Investment criteria

Decisions on when and where to invest in network improvements, including measures to manage traffic, will be taken in the light of the new approach to appraisal based on the criteria:

  • integration - ensuring that all decisions are taken in the context of our integrated transport policy;

  • safety - to improve safety for all road users;

  • economy - supporting sustainable economic activity in appropriate locations and getting good value for money;

  • environmental impact - protecting the built and natural environment;

  • accessibility - improving access to everyday facilities for those without a car and reducing community severance.

An integrated network
Trunk roads are an integral part of our transport system. They cannot and should not be managed and developed in isolation. We will manage the trunk road network (and encourage local authorities to manage local roads) as part of a series of transport networks that have good connections between them.

There are three key aspects to this:

  • integration between all types of transport. We want to make it as easy as possible for car drivers to switch to rail, bus and coach by providing good connections between them, by managing roads as part of the wider transport system and by improved co-ordination with public transport operators. This will increase choice and help to create reliable and seamless journeys;

  • integration between road freight and other freight modes. Better connections to rail freight terminals and ports can help encourage hauliers to switch to rail and shipping;

  • integration between trunk roads and local roads. The management of trunk and local road networks is already substantially integrated but this needs to be developed further. Both networks cover a range of road types and situations and to some extent the measures for achieving integration on local roads considered earlier in this Chapter will be of relevance to trunk roads.

The likely impact on local roads will be an important consideration in bringing forward traffic management measures on the trunk road network. Through-traffic will be encouraged to use trunk roads, not unsuitable local roads.
A core road network
The trunk road network varies greatly from place to place, although most trunk roads are of clear national significance. We have identified a core network in England of nationally important routes (see map at Annex E). In defining this network we have taken the following factors into account:

  • linking main centres of population and economic activity;

  • accessing major ports, airports and rail intermodal terminals;

  • joining peripheral regions to the centre;

  • providing key cross-border links to Scotland and Wales;

  • classification as part of the UK Trans-European Road Network.

There are a number of trunk roads which mainly serve local and regional traffic. Such roads would be more appropriately managed by the local highway authority, to enable decisions to be taken locally and to be better integrated with local transport and land use planning issues. Our consultation on the strategy for trunk roads in England showed significant support for the 'de-trunking' of these roads. We will consult the Local Government Association and individual local highway authorities in taking forward these proposals for devolving powers.
Making better use
In England, the Highways Agency is developing a 'Toolkit' of techniques and equipment which can be used individually or in combination for making better use of the network. As well as bringing forward local environmental and safety improvements, we have asked the Agency to focus the development of its Toolkit on:

  • integrating the trunk road network with other modes of transport by providing

  • safer and more accessible interchanges between modes;

  • clear, comprehensive and up-to-date information using the latest technology to assist route and mode choice;

  • priority measures to assist public transport and vulnerable users;

  • managing traffic demand on the network, including giving priority to buses, coaches and lorries where appropriate;

  • increasing the efficiency of network operation.

Giving greater priority to coaches

  • modern coaches can provide a flexible way of filling gaps in the services provided by trains, as well as competing with them on their own merits and in many cases, offering a lower cost alternative;

  • M4 Heathrow bus and coach lane - is the first motorway bus lane to come into service. Road space was reallocated to create the dedicated bus lane. Bus journey time and reliability has been improved;

  • M4 Junction 3 to Junction 2 - working on proposals for an eastbound bus and coach priority lane.

Toolkit measures will form part of our approach to making better use of the M25. We will pilot an innovative and imaginative mix of techniques on the M25 that can have wider application elsewhere. The controlled motorway experiment on the western sector of the M25 has already demonstrated that drivers can expect better journeys through smoother traffic flows and a reduction in stop-start driving conditions.

Toolkit measures are likely to be most effective if deployed as part of a 'Route Management Strategy'. This is a technique being developed by the Highways Agency to provide a framework for managing individual trunk routes as part of wider transport networks. Route management strategies will interlock with local transport strategies (set out in local transport plans), within the context established by Regional Planning Guidance.

In Scotland, the concepts of 'Route Action Plans' and 'Route Accident Reduction Plans' have been in place for several years resulting in the comprehensive study of routes and the application of similar tools to those in the Highways Agency's Toolkit.

The Highways Agency as network operator
We have set new objectives for the Highways Agency. Overall, the Agency's strategic aim will be to contribute to sustainable development by maintaining, improving and operating the trunk road network in support of our integrated transport and land use planning policies. The Agency's main purpose in future will be as a network operator rather than as a road builder. It will have the following key objectives:

  • to give priority to the maintenance of trunk roads and bridges with the broad objective of minimising whole life costs;

  • to develop its role as network operator by implementing traffic management, network control and other measures aimed at making best use of the existing infrastructure and facilitating integration with other transport modes;

  • to take action to reduce congestion and increase the reliability of journey times;

  • to carry out the Government's targeted programme of investment in trunk road improvements;

  • to minimise the impact of the trunk road network on both the natural and built environment;

  • to improve safety for all road users and contribute to the Government's new safety strategy and targets for 2010;

  • to work in partnership with road users, transport providers and operators, local authorities and others affected by its operations, monitoring to promote choice and information to travellers and publishing information about the performance and reliability of the network;

  • to be a good employer, managing the Agency's business efficiently and effectively, seeking continuous improvement.

The Highways Agency as network operator

  • align trunk road network operation with integrated transport policy;

  • focus on moving people and goods safely and effectively rather than building new roads;

  • optimise use of network assets;

  • promote the development of partnerships, eg with transport operators;

  • provide travel and other network information to customers, especially the travelling public;

  • ensure a consistent approach to managing the network within a route strategy framework.

The performance of the network in meeting the new objectives will be measured by a series of indicators to be developed by the Agency and published each year in its annual report. Performance will be reported against both economic and environmental indicators.

To serve road users more effectively, we have asked the Agency to work on proposals for Regional Traffic Control Centres (RTCCs) in England, complementing those already established in Wales. In Scotland, progress has already been made through the establishment and continuing development of the Scottish National Network Control Centre in Glasgow.

The aim of RTCCs is to:

  • improve reliability on the network;

  • reduce the disruption caused by major incidents;

  • provide re-routing advice to minimise the effect of congestion and incidents;

  • minimise delays due to roadworks;

  • influence pre-trip decisions on route, time and mode by providing reliable and accurate information.

RTCCs can help in tackling the effects of traffic congestion by facilitating modern management techniques, including:

  • traffic monitoring and modelling;

  • strategic traffic control;

  • traffic and travel information;

  • assistance to the emergency services;

  • network performance monitoring and management information.

Helping the road user
In order to improve the service for transport users, we have asked the Highways Agency to revise the "Road User's Charter" to bring it into line with integrated transport policy and give it an increased customer focus. The Highways Agency will continue to look for greater involvement with users of the network and there will be independent surveys of customer satisfaction.

Free recovery services at road works have proved successful in removing broken down vehicles quickly and looking after the safety and well-being of drivers and their passengers. The Highways Agency will build on this experience to improve on response times where breakdowns occur.

On motorways, following breakdowns or accidents, recovery vehicles are currently mobilised by the police. This service is important in both removing obstructions quickly and securing the safety of drivers and their passengers. The Highways Agency will work with the police to ensure the continuing improvement of this service. We will also look for ways to give recovery vehicles, which would need to be properly accredited, higher priority in congested traffic, including allowing them to run on the hard shoulder. These measures to improve the service to motorists will be complemented by our existing programmes to enhance roadside equipment such as CCTV cameras for use by the police and the replacement of older style emergency telephones by those which can be used by disabled people.

Through the new issue of the Highway Code we will provide clearer advice about the action to take should a motorist breakdown on a motorway. The guidance will explain how to find the nearest emergency roadside telephone. We will look at other ways of making this advice more widely available for motorists, both at the start of and during their journeys and at ways to improve the signing of emergency telephones.

Improving roadside facilities for lorry drivers

  • at motorway service areas - we will publish best practice advice for developers and local planning authorities on improving facilities for lorry drivers, including short-stay and overnight parking, toilets and showers, food and refreshments;

  • on other trunk roads - updated advice will encourage local authorities to identify locations where roadside facilities are inadequate and to favour proposals that take proper account of the needs of lorry drivers over those that do not;

  • through better signing of lorry facilities.

Better information for the driver

As demonstrated by the AA's Roadwatch, the provision of relevant, timely and accurate information can help to make the best use of the road network by enabling travellers to make informed choices about alternative modes, routes and times. The Highways Agency will provide free of charge the roadside information that drivers need to make effective use of their network (as should local highway authorities for their networks). We also want to encourage a competitive market in more specialised travel information services supplied to individuals and companies. We will maintain an appropriate balance between these objectives, exploring the opportunities for public-private sector partnerships to achieve them.

Driver information

pre-trip information

  • available in homes and offices from various sources including the radio and internet - including the Highways Agency's website.

in-trip information

  • traditional roadside signing and road marking;

  • electronic variable message signs;

  • in-car radio;

  • in-vehicle congestion warning systems;

  • route guidance systems.

future possibilities

  • Radio-Data System- Traffic Message Channel - pilot service starting shortly;

  • dynamic route guidance systems;

  • dedicated short range communications (roadside beacons) - three year technical trial (called Road Traffic Advisor) looking at user acceptance and safety.

More care for the local environment
When we plan trunk roads, we will place greater emphasis on the need to avoid sensitive sites. Our strong presumption against transport infrastructure affecting environmentally sensitive areas and sites is explained in Chapter 4. In operating the network, the effects on the natural and built environment will be assessed and where practicable mitigated. For example, we are publishing new advice on reducing the impact of roads on vulnerable species such as otters and bats.

The Highways Agency has research in hand on various matters, including a joint project with the Environment Agency on the polluting effects of water running off roads. It is also helping to develop new European standards to encourage greater use of recycled materials in construction. More information on the Highways Agency's environmental work will be published later this year.

Road lighting is needed on some roads in the interests of safety. Where lighting is essential it should be designed in such a way that nuisance is reduced and the effect on the night sky in the countryside minimised.

New lighting for the M62

  • installed by the Highways Agency to reduce intrusion into the night landscape where the motorway crosses the high Pennines over Saddleworth Moor;

  • new lamps direct most of the light downwards onto the motorway, produce a more natural colour and bring about a dramatic improvement in the night sky;

  • lamps are about 30% brighter and last half as long again as those used previously.

Advice on the design of road lighting14 has recently been reviewed and expanded to provide up-to-date guidance on the appearance of lighting both during the day and at night. Guidance is also being developed on the assessment of new and replacement lighting schemes.

Better development control
When responding to development proposals near trunk roads, the Highways Agency will reflect the context established by Regional Planning Guidance and development plans. The Agency will work with local authorities and public transport operators to explore transport options that are sustainable, including those that can be achieved through the use of planning conditions and planning obligations. Regional sustainable transport strategies and local transport plans will in due course provide more comprehensive information to support development control decisions (see Chapter 4).

Previously, the formation of new accesses to trunk roads has been discouraged in order to allow the free-flow of traffic. In support of our integrated transport policy the Highways Agency will in future adopt a graduated policy on new connections to trunk roads. Access will be most severely restricted in the case of motorways and core national routes. Elsewhere, there will be a less restrictive approach to connections, subject to consultation with the local authorities concerned.

This graduated policy will be of particular value in urban areas where there are brownfield sites that we would wish to see developed in support of our policies for sustainable development. Where brownfield sites could be connected to the trunk road network we will expect proposals for development to support the use of public transport, cycling and walking.

The Highways Agency will retain the right, on behalf of the Secretary of State, to direct the refusal of planning applications where the proposals raise significant concerns for road safety. Details of the new policy will be provided in a revision to planning policy guidance on transport (see Chapter 4) and an update of the Department of Transport Circular 4/88.

Delivering the goods: sustainable distribution
We sometimes take for granted how much our standard of living depends on goods delivered by the transport system. The question we face is how to deliver goods efficiently and with least harm to the environment and our health.

To achieve our aims, we will work in partnership with industry to promote sustainable distribution. By this we mean improving the efficiency of the distribution market in a way that meets our environmental objectives. It also means better planning and higher standards in the industry. We will publish shortly a strategy setting out a wide range of initiatives to deliver these objectives.

Improving efficiency
Vehicles running empty or lightly loaded lose the industry money, increase pollution and energy consumption and produce unnecessary pressures on road space.

The proportion of empty running lorries remains significant, at around 30%, and has been broadly static for the last ten years. It is more difficult to ascertain the extent of light running, where lorries are loaded to below their full capacity, but it is substantial. Whilst there are some industries where it is impractical to secure return loads, there are areas where it is possible to reduce light or empty running; for example, through improved information systems and promoting collaboration between operators to consolidate loads into fewer vehicles.

Good practice from Tesco

After completing their deliveries to stores, Tesco's lorries go on to suppliers and collect loads to take back to the distribution centre. Benefits over a full year are three million fewer miles, saving 4,600 tonnes of CO2 and £720,000 in fuel.

Fuel efficiency of lorries has improved by some 60% over the past 25 years. Trials by vehicle manufacturers demonstrate that further energy savings could be made by changes to driver behaviour.

We shall support industry's efforts to realise efficiency gains which deliver wider benefits; for example, through research and benchmarking to identify opportunities for reducing empty and light running, whether through investment in new technology (such as double-deck trailers or IT tools which facilitate load sharing and better route planning) or improving driver training.

From 1 January next year, we are obliged to conform with EU law by raising the maximum axle weight for lorries on international journeys from 10.5 to 11.5 tonnes and increasing the maximum gross weight of 5 axle articulated lorries from 38 to 40 tonnes. It would be very difficult in practice to distinguish national from international journeys in a way which is both fair and efficient, so we will allow such vehicles for both domestic and international journeys on UK roads. We will bring forward the necessary legal changes shortly.

These changes will not alter the size of vehicles but will allow more load per vehicle to be carried: this will improve the efficiency and competitiveness of UK hauliers. The problem is that the increased axle loading will cause greater road and bridge wear. A 40 tonne, 5 axle lorry with an 11.5 tonne axle weight causes about a third more wear than the heaviest lorries now permitted for general use (ie 38 tonne vehicle with an axle weight of 10.5 tonnes). Road maintenance is a substantial burden on the taxpayer and it is important that we do all we can to minimise the damage caused by heavier axle weights.

We are therefore developing a strategy to provide hauliers with incentives to make greater use of 6 axle lorries instead of 5 axle ones. 6 axle lorries are less damaging to roads and bridges because the extra axle allows the weight to be spread more evenly. But the load they can carry is less because the extra axle weighs about a tonne and the lorries are more expensive, making them less attractive to hauliers. The review of the basis of lorry Vehicle Excise Duty rates (VED) already announced by the Chancellor (see Chapter 4) will form part of the strategy by ensuring that the environmental damage, including to roads, caused by different types of lorries is reflected in their VED rates.

In addition, we want to provide a practical answer to the impact of the extra axle on the load that can be carried. We have therefore decided to allow 41 tonne gross weight lorries, on 6 axles and with road friendly suspension, on UK roads from 1 January 199915. These lorries will have to meet the same requirements as 38 and 40 tonne lorries for braking, noise and pollution.

We have also considered whether to go further and allow for general use the 44 tonne 6 axle lorry which was recommended by Sir Arthur Armitage in 198016, and which has been used for combined road/rail transport in the UK since 1994. 44 tonne lorries are effectively the same lorries as existing 38 tonne lorries: they are the same size, they meet the same minimum braking requirements, and the same maximum noise requirements, and their effects on road wear are similar. They would make road haulage more efficient because each lorry can be more fully laden, requiring fewer journeys for the same distribution tasks. Although a 44 tonne lorry would burn slightly more fuel and thus pollute slightly more than a 40 or 41 tonne lorry, the reduction in the total number of lorries for any given amount of goods distributed would bring less pollution overall. Similarly, there would, overall, be less noise, congestion and nuisance, greater safety and less damage to roads and bridges. However, a significant disadvantage of allowing 44 tonne lorries for general use is the risk that this could, in some situations, provide an incentive to switch freight from rail to road. One of the key objectives of the New Deal for transport is to encourage rail freight as a way of reducing pollution and congestion. Rail freight has benefited from the existing weight concession for combined road/rail movements. While much of the traffic that would take advantage of 44 tonne lorries, such as fuel deliveries to filling stations, is unsuitable for transfer to rail, it seems likely that some existing or future rail freight would transfer to road if 44 tonne lorries were allowed for general use.

Estimates of the impact of increasing lorry weights on lorry traffic are very sensitive to the assumptions made about the impact on rail freight and how much new lorry mileage would result. It is estimated17 that if 44 tonne lorries were available now, between 3,000 and 5,000 lorries might be taken off our roads but other than in the short term the numbers of heavy lorries would continue to grow.

As noted above, we are reviewing the basis of lorry VED rates. In addition, we are bringing forward a number of measures to promote rail freight, and to support the efforts which the freight train operators are now making to turn the tide of 40 years' decline. But it will take time for the full benefits to be realised and we believe it is important to give industry a realistic and increasingly attractive alternative to road haulage. An immediate move to 44 tonne lorries could prejudice that objective.

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