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5.0 State of the roads

Most drivers think the roads they drive on are a disgrace. There are potholes and constant road works and no obvious plan - joined up or otherwise - to improve the situation.

But is this different to a year ago? Do they honestly believe the Government should divert what little cash it has away from hospitals and schools into transport? And do they think they pay too much in motoring taxation for the service they get?

5.1 Lack of investment

More than three quarters of drivers still believe they are being treated as a cash cow, though 1% do think the 'war' has ended and 8% think the Government is serious about ending the 'war on motorists', but hasn't done anything about it yet.

They also think the quality and condition of all roads has deteriorated over the last year - with:

  • 92% believing this is true of local roads
  • 78% of motorways and main roads.

Geographically this is felt by:

  • 94% of rural drivers about local roads, by 92% of suburban drivers and 88% of urban ones.
  • 83% of rural drivers about motorways and main roads, by 78% of suburban drivers and 73% of urban ones

5.2 Taxation

The level of motoring tax has always been contentious, with the vast majority of drivers thinking they are overtaxed compared with the amount of money reinvested in the road network and transport in general.

This year however, drivers are more pragmatic in their views. Six in ten drivers now think the level of tax paid is not a fair price for their motoring freedom - up from less than half last year. Meanwhile, 61% think more taxes should be reinvested back in public transport - down 6% from 2010.

 

5.3 Priorities for investment

Drivers want smarter use of the limited transport funds available. They want the Government to make good its promise to give more freedom to choose where the money is spent to local authorities as promised in the Spending Review.

Top priorities this year are:

  • 84% of drivers want the maintenance of existing local roads to be prioritised.
  • 71% want targeted improvements to local roads to be prioritised.
  • 70% want the maintenance of existing motorways to be prioritised.
  • 62% want investment in winter weather equipment to be prioritised.

Further down the list:

  • 42% want improvements to local rail services to be prioritised.
  • 39% support the building of new bypasses and dual carriageways.

Bottom of the list are:

  • A new high speed rail link from London to Birmingham and the North - supported by only 14%.
  • Additional capacity at London airports - supported by only 4%.
  • Additional capacity at regional airports - supported by only 7%.

"The Government is interested in long-distance travel...
and tackling that, but the priorities coming through in this research are about local travel. Motorists want local solutions, but the Government isn't interested and is leaving it entirely to local authorities"

Stephen Joseph
Executive Director, Campaign for Better Transport

 

5.4 Winter weather

Although lessons were learned from the snow at the beginning of the year, drivers would still like more to be done. Almost one in four stated the authorities' lack of preparedness for the extreme weather conditions was of real concern and almost two thirds want more investment in snow ploughs and other snow clearing machinery.

In terms of actually driving in the snow:

  • 67% make sure they are prepared with shovels and blankets - rising to 74% for people in rural locations.
  • 59% are confident driving in adverse weather conditions.
  • Perhaps in line with the 'Big Society' theme, 80% would like to see the Government incentivise farmers and others to keep local roads clear during adverse weather conditions with 84% of rural drivers and 78% of suburban and urban drivers wanting this.

The Report recommended additional investment and coordination by Government to minimize the impact of future adverse weather. Further recommendations include:

  • The launch of a high profile campaign to increase the proportion of motorists taking precautions for driving in winter weather.
  • The final version of the Department for Transport's Climate change Adaptation Plan to refer to the future risk of severe winter weather.
  • Improved aid and better electrification of the rail network south of the River Thames.
  • Co-ordinated airport planning for major incidents including snow chaos.
  • Provision of better online advice for people about tackling problems arising from severe winter weather.
  • An investigation of the case to provide the Met Office with more money to improve its long range forecasting capability12.

Transport Select Committee Report on Winter Weather

In May, the Transport Select Committee published its report, 'Keeping the UK Moving: The impact on transport of the winter weather in December 2010'.

"Do the problems of recent winters suggest that a more fundamental change in approach is required?
Does it make sense for UK plc to invest significantly more to prepare for winter weather conditions, or would that be disproportionate to the likelihood and cost of disruption?"

Philip Hammond
Transport Secretary


12. Keeping the UK moving: The impact of the winter weather in December 2010, http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/transport-committee/news/

6.0 Road safety and law abiding drivers

Appendix