Tag Archive | "department for transport"

More People Are Choosing Greener Journeys (allegedly)

Have you ever had your views consulted by any Government Department? The answer to that question from virtually everybody is ‘No’. Yet according to the Department for Transport (DfT) efforts to make it easier for people to choose greener ways of travelling to and from public transport hubs are working, at least according to a new report. Wonder who they are asking?

The so-called ’door to door action plan’ published today by the DfT identifies the good work being ‘taken forward’ that will help make door-to-door journeys by public transport, cycling or walking the norm. Real life journeys on public transport tend to be more complicated than just a single trip on a train or three stops on the local bus. The Government say they want to make it as easy as possible for people to choose greener ways of getting between each mode of transport.

Since they launched this ’door to door strategy’ eight months ago, there have apparently already been significant improvements to integrate public transport. This action plan highlights where progress has been made but there is still more to be done.

Quoted examples of successes include a £14 million investment in two new state-of-the-art bus interchanges at Rochdale and Mansfield improving integration with rail as well as making it easier and safer for people to use sustainable transport. Additionally, a £14.5 million investment in cycle facilities at railway stations has been the major enabler in doubling the amount of cycle parking spaces at stations in the lifetime of this Parliament. This has contributed to the number of cycle-rail journeys increasing from 14 million in 2009 to an all time high of 39 million a year.

Last summer the Prime Minister announced plans for ‘cycle-proofing’ roads so that all new trunk roads and improvement schemes will be designed with cyclists as well as motorists in mind. As part of that, the Highways Agency is also spending £20 million to improve existing infrastructure for cyclists on the strategic roads network.

All these plans are all well and good but how many non-car users are truly receiving any form of benefit out of these grandiose pronouncements. Certainly nobody in rural areas that’s for sure. Until this country has a root and branch look at its transport infrastructure there will always be winners and losers. Statistics can say anything.

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80mph Trials in the Pipeline

Well, it has been talked about for long enough and, at last, we get the chance to weigh up the evidence for and against a speed limit increase on motorways. All sensible drivers know that their cars are more than capable of accommodating this extra speed in safety. Equally, they know that there will be a penalty to pay in fuel economy but understand you can’t have it both ways. Allegedly, 49% of drivers admit to flouting the speed limit now anyway and the true figure is probably a bit higher!

Trials of the new speed limit will take place on up to seven sections of the motorway network that are deemed suitable, so only three and four lane sections will be considered. It is unlikely that dual carriageways will ever be included, should this new limit be introduced. Details of the scheme will be published in the early Summer. Over a total distance of around seventy miles, large signs will be erected on overhead gantries to control the flow of vehicles. When the traffic flow is light, the limit will be increased to 80mph, but adjusted downward at busier periods.

Motorists should not be complacent, however. At present, so we are told, police ‘guidelines’ allow drivers a bit of leeway under the “10% plus 2mph” formula. If this was applied to an 80mph limit, drivers would be doing 90mph and the boys in blue aren’t having that, are they? So, 80 will mean 80 and speed cameras will enforce this as Mike Penning, the roads minister, has made clear:

“I hope the public are listening to me, because average speed cameras, especially on managed motorways, are ridiculously accurate. The argument, which will be in the public consultation, is what we enforce over 80mph. The answer will be that 80mph will be the speed limit, and not, as we interpret it today, 90mph.”

The AA have welcomed the move on the wider motorways. Edmund King, the President of the AA said:

“If you have got a five star motorway in terms of safety then 80mph is fine.”

Rather predictably however, the road safety campaigners Brake have accused the government of ‘gambling with people’s lives’. Ellen Booth said:

We know from basic physics that the faster people travel, the longer the stopping distances, the less time you have to react to emergencies and the harder you hit.”

The truth is likely to be somewhere in the middle. There will always be accidents and there will always be stupid people. Most drivers act responsibly and that is unlikely to change.

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The Cost of Road Maintenance to Drivers And Utilities

Our beloved councils, who are responsible for about 90% of our road network, have been told to save many millions from their road maintenance budget in line with Department for Transport spending guidelines. Anyone whose wheel has plummeted into a crater on the road will know how they feel about this. Even Margaret Hodge, the fearsome chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee sees the motorists point of view. She said:

“The Department doesn’t fully understand what impact its cuts to road maintenance will have on the state of UK roads. My committee is concerned that short-term budget cutting could prove counterproductive, costing more in the long term as a result of increased vehicle damage and the higher cost of repairing the more severe road damage.”

She went on to say that there were many ‘unanswered’ questions about the DfT’s plans. The Highways Agency which is responsible for the other 10% of roads – the major ones – has already had to pay out £2.5 million in compensation for damage and injury. A committee of MPs has concluded that this short-term thinking will increase the costs of road repair to the taxpayer in the long run. The President of the AA, Edmund King is on record as saying:

“”All road users…will be concerned at any prospect of deteriorating roads. In the past we have applauded the Highways Agency for the efficient maintenance of motorways and trunk roads which generally are kept in a better state than local roads. Potholes can blight roads and are particularly treacherous for those on two wheels. The AA has seen an increase in the number of call-outs due to tyres, suspension and steering problems which could all be linked to potholes. As drivers are paying billions of pounds in various motoring taxes, they expect to be able to drive on main roads bereft of potholes. The last thing we want is a vicious circle where the declining state of roads leads to more claims for compensation due to damage and injury, which in turn means less spending on roads.”

That just about says it all, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Norman Baker has decided to rake in more cash by penalising the Utilities if they take too long with road works. Companies must agree a time frame for the work with the local council. If they overstay the agreement then they have to cough up a fine – currently up to £2500 a day. From October this year that will rise to £5000 a day for the first three, then up to £10000 thereafter. Note the interesting point that councils ‘must spend overrun charge income on implementing transport policies’. Having seen some crackpot local ‘initiatives’, that could mean anything.

The Local Government Association will tell you that, despite the cuts, they are actually spending more on road repairs but the reality doesn’t seem to match up. Our roads are in need of a massive cash investment, but it doesn’t look like it is going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime watch out for those potholes!


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