Repairing our roads and public transport need to be Government priorities

Transport Action Network (TAN) is calling on Liz Truss and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, her new Transport Secretary, to get the basics right [1] and repair our roads. These are crumbling after a decade of underinvestment [2] and this is a top priority for the public [3]. The Government also needs to focus on getting the railways working again and buses back on their feet.

However, TAN is warning about being distracted by big new roads [4], which consume vast amounts of public resources [5], rarely deliver the benefits promised and will set the UK back on tackling climate change [6].

Public transport is currently in crisis, with services slashed, an increasingly unreliable timetable and rising fares. Many people are now left without any choice of transport and increasingly isolated. If the Government is to deliver on levelling up and to grow the economy it needs to tackle this inequality or most jobseekers won’t be able to access work [7].

While the £2 bus fare cap in January for 3 months is welcome, TAN is urging Anne-Marie Trevelyan to start it sooner and for it to last for at least 6 months. Many people are struggling with transport costs now and can’t wait for help until after Christmas.

Chris Todd, director of Transport Action Network said:

“The transport sector is in crisis. Strong leadership is required to get public transport working again, cut fares, reduce pollution and tackle climate change. Traffic is choking our streets, while road safety improvements have largely stalled. We can’t build new roads fast enough to keep ahead of demand. We can’t even maintain the roads we’ve got. We need a new approach: one that brings all these strands together to improve choice, our economy and our quality of life. This is also an opportunity to cancel Smart Motorways once and for all.

“Over the past few years, bus and rail services have been slashed while fares have continued to rise above inflation. These need reversing and improvements made. Long-standing bottlenecks on the rail network and gaps in electrification need prioritising after decades of dither and delay under previous Transport Secretaries. That would speed up services, increase capacity and decarbonise the rail network.

“Tackling the maintenance backlog isn’t sexy, but is a public priority and essential for the smooth running of our economy. It also offers a low cost opportunity to improve active travel and public transport infrastructure. We look forward to working with the new Transport Secretary to deliver on these challenges.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

[1] Liz Truss called for politicians to get the basics right in 2019 as Treasury Minister, highlighting road maintenance.

[2] Local Highways Authorities’ highways maintenance backlog is estimated to be £12.64bn (not much more than the cost of the Lower Thames Crossing) while the backlog for maintaining local bridges is estimated at £5.4bn, giving a total of over £18bn. This cost could rise if the use of longer and heavier lorries is approved.

[3] It is included in the AA’s top 10 priorities for motorists, in which the need for new and bigger roads wasn’t mentioned. Also Transport Focus surveyed motorists regarding the Strategic Road Network and found: “…when asked to choose between the two, drivers of all types of vehicle placed more importance on maintenance than building new roads/new lanes…” (page 11) Road users’ priorities for improvement: England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads, August 2021

[4] Liz Truss’s speech outside No.10 yesterday included a pledge to build roads faster.

[5] Trevelyan will have some key investment decisions to make on whether to progress very expensive and controversial projects such as the £8.2 billion Lower Thames Crossing (a likely underestimate and does not include costs of schemes hived off from the original proposals), the £2.5 billion A303 Stonehenge scheme which would cause significant harm to the World Heritage Site, and the £1 billion A66 Northern Trans Pennine mega project (8 schemes rolled into one).

[6] “The surface transport sector contributed 23% (101 MtCO2e) of total UK emissions in 2021, with cars being the biggest source of emissions” – page 115, 2022 Report to Parliament: Progress in reducing emissions, Climate Change Committee, June 2022.

[7] “…77% of jobseekers outside of London do not have regular access to a car, van or motorbike for personal use for work or interviews.” Quote from Levelling Up Thematic Plan (page 25), Transport for the South East, June 2022.


Signing up will allow you to access our monthly newsletter and the latest actions and events