Autumn Statement: The RHA's Asks for Infrastructure
By James Barwise, RHA Policy Advisor
Almost everything we eat, drink, wear, or use comes to us by road freight. Everything from the materials used to build the homes we live in, to the electronic device you may be reading this article on, to all the groceries and household goods in your local supermarket, has at some point been transported on a road by an HGV.
As such, our road network is central to both our economy and our lives, but you wouldn’t have thought as much from the lack of care and attention it receives. Our highways are not in the state they should be, and to add insult to injury, the drivers that transport these vital goods do not have the facilities they need to do their jobs safely.
Across the country, we see roads in disrepair, with the latest figures from the RAC showing a record high in pothole-related vehicle breakdowns. There is also insufficient capacity on the network to accommodate current travel demand – let alone meet the demand which expected in the future. The Department for Transport has forecast a 55% increase in traffic and 85% increase in congestion by 2040 – without significant intervention, the cumulative cost of congestion will exceed £300 billion by 2030. The consequences of not addressing this have significant economic consequences for the nation.
As such we’re calling for vital investment in our road network. We’ve seen how when National Highways are given the resources to deliver projects, it can significantly ease congestion for both the haulier and everyday motorist alike. For the same cost as the HS2 Birmingham-London link, National Highways could undertake fifty road improvement schemes on the same scale as the A14 Huntingdon-Cambridge Improvement Scheme and unlock huge economic opportunity across the country.
Elsewhere, we’ve been campaigning for the Government to think about road freight in a more joined-up way by establishing a National Freight Network. The NFN will highlight key freight corridors, identify and improve problematic bottlenecks, and ensure that complete supply chains are considered in planning decisions.
Most importantly, though, we need to reprioritise driver welfare and safety. Throughout the country, there is a severe shortage of adequate driver facilities – the country does not have enough HGV parking, and we certainly don’t have enough rest stops and secure parking facilities. Drivers are often forced to park up in lay-bys, without toilets or washing facilities or security cameras – resulting in unsanitary and often unsafe working conditions.
As a result, we will continue to campaign for the adequate provision of parking and secure facilities across the strategic road network. The Department for Transport must also take a more active role in streamlining local planning decisions to ensure that the delivery of such nationally significant infrastructure can’t be torpedoed by local nimbyist concerns.
As we look ahead to the Autumn Statement, the RHA will continue to call for the Government to take this country’s infrastructure needs seriously, and to pay attention to the needs of our industry and the needs of our drivers.