Campaign for Better Transport is warning the Government against using big road projects, especially toll roads, to try to stimulate economic growth in a new report published on 25 November.
The Smarter Spending report looks at how transport spending can help stimulate the economy and identifies which transport projects the Government should back.
The report warns against large scale spending on new roads, which rarely provide value for money and frequently go over budget.
For instance, the cost of widening and rebuilding 21 miles of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon rose to £1.3 billion (around £1,000 per inch) before it was cancelled in the Spending Review. This was 147 per cent more than when it first received provisional approval.
Instead the report advocates other, cheaper transport initiatives which would provide more benefits quicker, including public transport schemes and maintaining and improving the management of the existing road network.
Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive, said:
“There is a tendency to focus on big projects in transport, but in fact as our report highlights, the big economic benefits will come from improving and making better use of existing transport networks and services.
“Our report shows a clear choice for Government – go for big headline road projects which won’t happen for eight to ten years and will simply move traffic jams around, or invest in transport programmes and services which can deliver jobs, productivity and sustainable growth.”
In addition to recommending more money is spent on maintaining the existing road network, the report identifies a number of transport projects that would also provide good value for money and benefit more people in more areas of the country.
Crucially, all the projects could be delivered in the short term and would create or safeguard jobs in construction and engineering, as well as having wider economic, social and environmental benefits:
- The Leeds New Generation Transport project to introduce a modern trolleybus network to the city – £163.5m of Government funding
- Redevelopment of Sunderland’s national rail/Metro station at street level to create commercial opportunities and jobs and help the regeneration of the city centre – estimated cost £10m
- The commercial redevelopment of Heworth interchange, the main bus/rail/Metro interchange for much of South Tyneside and Gateshead, creating hundreds of new jobs – estimated cost £5.25m
- Electrification of the Midland Main Line between London, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield
- The Wolverhampton City Centre Loop, an extension to the city’s tram system which will improve access to the city centre and connect with the existing bus and rail stations – estimated cost £25m
- Increase capacity on the Felixstowe to West Midland line to allow for more rail freight to support manufacturing and export industries – estimated cost £291m
- The East West Rail scheme, a strategic rail route to link East Anglia with central, southern and western England and provide an alternative route for traffic from the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich avoiding the congested tracks around North London – cost £178m for core scheme
- Chesterton Station, a new railway station in Cambridge which would serve locations to the North East of the city and provide an interchange for park & ride, local bus services and connect to the guided busway – estimated cost £48.1m
- Improvements to Kirkby bus station and interchange in Merseyside – cost £8m
- Merseytram, a new tram system for Liverpool and Merseyside – cost £430m
- Extension of existing Metrolink network to Trafford Centre and Port Salford in Greater Manchester– cost £400m
- Electrification of the Reading to Redhill rail line
- Bus Rapid Transit North Fringe to Hengrove scheme to connect north Bristol and the University of the West of England with the city centre and the suburb of Hengrove – cost to Government £51.1m
- Reopen a 5.5 mile stretch of disused rail line to link Tavistock with Plymouth in Devon – £18.5m with no public subsidy required
The report also highlights the need for other transport measures to support the economy, such as support for local bus services, which are vital for many people to get access to employment; Access for All Programme to improve disabled access to stations; “smarter choices” programmes, which combine smaller scale capital investment with behaviour change approaches; and joining up transport networks through “door to door” initiatives such as improved information and smart ticketing.
The report also calls for the Government to tackle the shortfall in road maintenance, which is currently running at £782m a year.