Roddy Graham's blog: 23 May 2012 - Motorways are crying out for investment
23 May 2012
Roddy Graham is commercial director of Leasedrive Group and Chairman of the ICFM.
News that traffic volumes on the M6 toll road are falling is not good, either for its current investors or for future investors in new toll roads.
Average daily road traffic volumes on the M6 toll road have not risen since the last quarter of 2010, when the average daily volume was 44,089 vehicles.
In the first quarter of this year, the average daily volume was down by a third to just 30,418. The drop year-on-year for the same period was 13%.
The M6 toll road is only 27 miles in length and drivers wanting to enjoy rapid progress, rather than risk a well-known M6 bottleneck, pay up to £5.50 for the privilege at peak times with vans, trucks and coaches shelling out £11.
At a time when the Government is seeking large-scale private investment for the national road network, this is not good news. After all, the M6 toll road only represents a fraction of the UK's 2,211-mile motorway network.
Forget new motorways, as any driver will testify, investment needs to be made now in proper road maintenance. However unacceptable potholes are in towns and on country roads, they are downright dangerous on motorways and they're appearing on them with increasing frequency.
Investment in motorways is what the Road Safety Foundation is also calling for.
In its latest report stating that our motorways are unfit for a Government proposed rise in the motorway speed limit from 70mph to 80mph, it highlights the poor maintenance and inadequate roadside protection as key factors.
Last year, the Foundation inspected 95% of the 4,400 miles of roads covered by the Highways Agency and awarded two stars to two-thirds of the road network assessed.
It used the European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) system, with four stars the maximum possible score under the EuroRAP Road Protection Score.
The EuroRAP score covers how well the road design protects users from death or disabling injury in the event of an accident. Three key elements are considered: protection if a vehicle runs off the road, risk of a head-on collision and safety of junctions.
In the UK, half of the motorways under the Highways Agency's control achieved a four-star rating while 78% of dual carriageways were given a three-star rating. Half of motorways, however, do not protect users if they run off the road while on dual carriageways the figure is 90%.
In its latest research, the Foundation suggests that lack of proper run-off protection is doubling the rate of death or serious injury where there should be protection in the form of crash barriers, concrete barriers and safety fencing.
It also highlights the need for electronic controls for hazard warning signs and variable speed limits to manage intense traffic flows frequently seen on motorways.
It could also have highlighted the need for proper management of these electronic controls. While variable speed limits on the likes of the M25 and M42 certainly appear to work by keeping traffic on the move, I am more sceptical about overhead hazard warning signs as are the vast majority of drivers judging by how many ignore them.
The problem with these is that often they announce some hazard ahead that was never there or was cleared hours ago.
Some kind of electronic audit trail between the signs and central control needs to be introduced before we become totally blasé about their warnings.
The foundation declares that our four and five-star safety ranked vehicles need to be matched by four or five-star road safety on high speed roads in the form crash avoidance technology and road engineering.
Maybe the THINK! campaign should be directed at Government by way of a change!
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