Comprehensive Spending Review

AA warns that comprehensive spending review should not bypass roads

19 October 2010

Roads and drivers will remain vital to help stimulate economic recovery, warns the AA prior to this week's Comprehensive Spending Review.

The AA points out that 93% of passenger journeys and the vast bulk of freight are moved by road. Despite this the AA is concerned that road schemes may lose out due to the Government's "tunnel vision" concerning the benefits of high speed rail, which will be extremely expensive yet would take little or no traffic off the congested roads.

The Eddington study found that a 5% reduction in business travel time on the roads would generate £2.5bn benefit. The study also found that road schemes produced rates of return at a ratio of about 10:1 and the number of road schemes with high levels of return far outweighed major public transport schemes such as heavy and light rail.

Comment

According to Edmund King, AA President: "While we understand that transport must share its fair burden of expenditure cuts, we are making the case for road investment to reduce congestion, reduce CO2 and to reduce economic gloom.

"More than 90% of passenger journeys are by road and hence roads should not be hit by disproportionate cuts. The Government appears to be suffering from 'tunnel vision' by continuing to extol the virtues of high speed rail which will do nothing or very little to reduce road congestion or help the environment or the economy.

"The economy depends on good road links so cutting road expenditure and maintenance too far would backfire and lead to crumbling roads, more congestion and more accidents."

Over the last 30 months the AA has also been tracking the impact of fuel prices on AA members and this has revealed that when prices are high, as in the peaks of July 2008 and May 2010, drivers cut back even more on driving and also cut back on other spending to compensate.

In the March 2010 AA/Populus survey, 29% said they had cut back on driving due to the price of fuel, 19% of respondents had cut back on other areas of spending, and 19% had done both. Hence 67% of drivers had been affected. Drivers cutting back on expenditure adversely hits local economies.

The AA believes that in a time of financial prudency more weight must be given to the greatest number of people who will benefit from investment in a particular transport scheme (by mode) so that the greatest benefit to society can be achieved. This may mean more resources going into road rather than rail.

The AA will next week be conducting an AA Street Watch survey with an army of 13,000 volunteers to ascertain the state of local roads prior to any Comprehensive Spending Review cuts.

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19 October 2010