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Transport Secretary looks to lead road revolution

09 July 2014 #Bus and Coach #Logistics #News #Policy #Top Stories #Trailer #Truck #Van

New technology, better infrastructure and funding reform are the three visions outlined by the Department for Transport (DfT) to improve the UK’s future road network.

Speaking at the New Civil Engineer conference, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin shared his thoughts on how the government is rethinking its road strategy.

McLoughlin said that while the UK is now firing on all cylinders and business confidence is growing once again, the road network cannot continue to be ignored and overlooked as it has been by previous governments over the decades.

“The road network is the backbone of Britain, 95% of people use it every day,” he added. “So we know one thing for sure: to keep the economy moving, people and goods are going to need to keep travelling.

“Yet nothing’s really changed for years – we’ve just been managing decline. But things are going to change; we’re on the verge of a revolution in road travel.”

McLoughlin outlined that there will be three key components necessary for achieving a better road network infrastructure: the use of new technology, improving the existing infrastructure and reforming how the roads are maintained and paid for.

New technology will continue to be used to improve efficiencies on existing road space, and McLoughlin pointed to the successful introduction of smarter motorways on the M1, where four lanes can be used safely, and a 240-mile stretch of road from Kent to Cheshire.

“It’s about creating a network that works better for communities and the environment too. Cheaper, smarter lighting that comes on when it is needed, cutting pollution but not at the cost of reducing safety. Building green bridges, more tunnelling and better noise barriers that will help blend roads much better into the landscape,” he added.

DfT has proposed that more than £3bn a year will be made available by 2021 and the government is keen to invest this  in the road network, with more than £4 billion available to cover maintenance plans between 2011 and 2015, which McLoughlin says is four times the amount pledged previously.

Local authorities are also being asked to demonstrate how they would use a grant from the £200 million pothole fund to improve road conditions for its members. The reformation of the Highways Agency will also save more than £2.4 billion over the next 10 years, once it becomes a government-owned company, and it is hoped that these strategies will end the stop-start investment for maintaining roads in the UK.

Later this year, DfT will publish its long-term investment plan, which will outline a five-year future road strategy and a clear vision on the reforms of the Highway Agency.

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