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Traffic Congestion

Volume 507: debated on Thursday 18 March 2010

Under the urban congestion programme, person journey times have improved by 5.5 per cent. over the last four years on key routes in the 10 participating urban areas.

On the strategic road network, delays for the slowest 10 per cent. of journeys in the year to January 2010 have reduced by 7.7 per cent. since the March 2008 baseline. However, I recognise that congestion is still a major issue for the many people stuck on roads in buses, cars and other modes of transport. Reducing congestion remains a major priority.

Is the Minister aware of the recent report from the Road Users Alliance, which predicts that traffic jams will rise by 37 per cent. over 15 years? It goes on to claim that underinvestment has left Britain’s roads

“uncompetitive, congested…and inadequate to meet the future needs of the economy”.

What is the Government’s answer to that criticism?

I am unaware of that figure, but the hon. Lady is right to say that congestion incurs a cost for the UK. In his report a couple of years ago, Sir Rod Eddington quantified that cost at £22 billion by 2025 if steps were not taken to reduce congestion. That is why we announced last year that we were making £6 billion available to reduce congestion by widening motorways, making it possible for drivers to use the hard shoulders, and introducing active traffic management. This year, we have spent £2.5 billion on encouraging people to use buses, and made £1 billion available for older and disabled people. Over the next five years, we will invest £15 billion in our railways. More people are using rail today than at any time since the 1940s, and more people use buses than at any time since privatisation in the 1980s. Smarter choices need to be made.