Former adviser to McLoughlin wants greater focus on roads

A former special adviser to previous Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has admitted that the Government spent far too much time working on rail policy and “not enough on roads”.

Julian Glover (pictured), 2017 Wolfson Economics prize director, spent almost four years working with Mr McLoughlin to shape transport policy.

He told Highways Magazine: “We never managed to think about roads as a system, with income and costs and customers. Because of that, our roads are not funded as well as they could be.”

Glover says the creation of Highways England and the subsequent five-year Roads Investment Strategy (RIS), plus new funding for local projects through Local Enterprise Partnerships, proved to be a success during Mr McLoughlin’s time.

He added: “We also oversaw the evolution of the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) from a rail regulator to a roads and rail regulator, with Transport Focus speaking up for the users of England’s major roads. But even with these developments, the real political energy and time still went elsewhere in the transport sector. And that is still the case.

“New capital investment needs to be joined up with the equally important, but less exciting politically, business of day-to-day maintenance. We need to improve the way local roads are run, or create a national roads network of the kind some are now rightly advocating. And we need to think about where funding will come from in an age of changing technologies and falling fossil fuel use.”

The 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize is a £250,000 competition to find better ways of funding better roads.

Glover continued: “We are asking: ‘How can we pay for better, safer, more reliable roads in a way that is fair to road users and good for the economy and the environment?’.”

To read more of Julian Glover’s thoughts see the latest Viewpoint column here.

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