The RHA has a strong vision for roads in that they should be well-built and maintained, with surfaces that are even and minimise road noise. They should use signalling technologies to improve traffic flow, and information technology to ensure that road users have timely and reliable information. Roads authorities should be measured against those objectives.
The road network is where the haulage industry is at work therefore it’s no surprise that the industry has a massive vested interest in roads. Conditions on the roads affect costs, the ability to do the job well and to attract and recruit staff. Unlike factories, shops and office-based businesses, the transport industry has little influence on its working environment. It looks to government to ensure the right standards are available.
A country’s road system can attract or deter investors. Britain can be ‘open for business’ however, if our network is physically crumbling and increasingly at a standstill, investors will look elsewhere and we will fail to generate the wealth needed to pay for health, education and eliminating the spending deficit.
This principle applies throughout the UK. The recent Roads Investment Strategy is a sound starting point as far as England is concerned and it delivers a minimum standard to which the next government must also commit.
The DfT’s maintenance and improvement budget for councils in the new six-year spending period is ultimately unchanged from the level that was earmarked across the previous five-year period. The fact that it hasn’t reduced and that it is “locked-in” are welcome points. The current road maintenance budget is the minimum the new government must also guarantee. Additional cash should be made available where there is a clear need to do so, as was the case in the last parliament.
The RHA believes that the government and Highways England should make far better use of the data they gather about the roads to inform users about current and predictable road conditions. A map of journey times similar to a weather map of the UK should be made available. Also, we need to learn much more from the incidents that take place on our roads – something which has previously been a low priority.
The haulage industry recognises improvements that are being made in providing advance information about roadworks and likely congestion, but there is a clear need for more engagement when planning such work. DfT ministers must ensure that Highways England makes the cultural change needed to provide fertile ground for this engagement.
Truck drivers and their employers have an additional requirement – the provision of secure parking for trucks with appropriate facilities for drivers, starting with motorway services areas (MSAs). It is not acceptable for crime against trucks and their drivers to be rife at MSAs, or for professional drivers to be faced with unacceptably poor and dirty facilities. Drivers are required to take rest breaks by law (as well as by common sense) and MSAs are as much a part of the strategic road network as the carriageway and smart motorway systems. Government has, for too long, ignored their responsibilities in this area and ministers in the next government must, as a priority, use their influence to ensure that appropriate secure parking facilities are provided across the network.