Urgent improvements to the road network are required as transport problems are holding back business in the UK, according to the RAC Foundation addressing the British Chambers of Commerce national conference. With congestion costing the country at least £15 billion per year the RAC Foundation is calling for urgent action to prevent congestion from crippling commerce.

A survey of British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) members’ shows:

  • 76% of businesses report increased operating costs as a result of transport failings.

  • 56% of businesses report that transport has a major influence on where they locate.

  • 99% of businesses depend on roads for their daily activities.

  • 84% of businesses identify roads as essential to their business.

  • 55% of businesses cite urgent increases in road capacity as apriority above rail.

  • 87% see road congestion as a significant problem at the regional level.

  • 84% cite poor transport contributing to loss of man-hours.

  • 39% felt the expansion of their business is hindered by poor transport.

Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation, told the conference;

“We welcome the recent announcements to widen the M25 and M1 but more needs to be done. These essential schemes will not start until 2006. The British Chambers of Commerce survey clearly shows that transport problems have become a major issue for businesses.

“The RAC Foundation is also concerned at the dire and growing congestion on our roads so has identified a list of urgently needed improvements to the strategic road network. At a cost of around £2bn a year over 10 years the programme would provide very good value for money. Road users currently pay £44 billion per year of which less than £6 billion is spent on roads. These improvements could all be paid for out of half of one year’s motoring taxation.

“The Foundation has concentrated on the strategic network – motorways and trunk roads – because, even though it accounts for only about 4% of the network, it carries around 35% of traffic, including more than half of all road freight movements. This is the core of the national transport system.

“For the longer term a comprehensive review is needed to establish priorities in terms of the objectives for the network over the next 30 to 50 years.

“Even if wider road pricing schemes are introduced in the future this would in no sense be an alternative to creating extra road capacity that is necessary to meet rising demand. The Foundation also opposes the extensive Government programme of de-trunking roads to reduce the size of the strategic road network.

“We claim to be the fourth largest economy in the world so surely we can afford a decent road system to support economic growth.

“The Government must not be tempted to prop up the railways with extra expenditure taken from the roads budget and should publish the full economic returns on all road and rail schemes. We also need a new approach to transport planning to meet the longer-term needs of industry, the regions and individuals.

“The Government is right to plan ahead to meet the needs for air transport. Businesses need to see a similar vision for strategic roads, which carry the vast bulk of passengers and freight. We don’t want growing congestion to cripple commerce. ”