Hammond urged to put cash into local and Major roads

The chancellor must use the Budget to provide additional long-term investment in local roads and give a commitment to the Major Road Network (MRN), a major industry body has said.

Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA) – whose members maintain over 200,000km of roads and employ over 30,000 people in the UK – made the calls amid warnings that local road conditions are set to deteriorate due to the growing pressures of social care.

Council leaders recently claimed that by 2020 almost 60p in every pound of council tax revenue could be spent on social care.

‘The Government have consistently highlighted that increased productivity is crucial to our economic future; we believe that increased investment in highways maintenance is the key to unlocking improved productivity nationwide,’ said the new chief executive of HTMA, George Lee.

‘The Government have done well with their previous commitment to funding our road network; however, to ensure that the benefits from previous investment are secured there is a real need to follow this commitment with renewed vision and funding.’

HTMA said the Government needed to refine its long-term investment strategy for the entire road network ‘not just in major capital projects but in fundamental roads maintenance and the management and further development of the highway asset’.

The sector has long highlighted the divergence between capital funding for major new schemes and revenue funding for general maintenance, with many stating that they don’t have the cash to maintain the roads they have, let alone new ones.

Councils should be given more incentives and encouragement to ‘Spend to Save’ through structured investment, HTMA said.

Mr Lee said he would like to see central government offer improved revenue allocations or relaxed borrowing limits if councils could demonstrate they would invest the cash in order to save money over a longer period.

As the Government prepares to publish a consultation on the planned MRN, HMTA called for a firm financial commitment towards the concept, a coherent plan for implementation and a combination of capital and revenue support to be rolled out over the next five years.

On the strategic road network, HTMA wants ‘a clear commitment’ to Highways England’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS 2), covering 2020-2025.

‘Within this we would like to see clear and consistent levels of funding being allocated to the maintenance element of Highways England activity; as Highways England data systems become more robust then the capacity to bring stability and consistency to maintenance allocation and delivery should increase.’

Scrapping old diesels in urban areas ‘won’t impact pollution’

The RAC Foundation has said new research suggests that scrapping the oldest cars registered in urban areas would have a negligible effect on air quality.

Analysis of MOT information for 22 million cars has enabled a team of academics to use mileage, emissions and registered keeper data to map where the highest polluting vehicles are kept.

The RAC Foundation said it shows that vehicles responsible for emitting the most air pollution tend to be licensed at locations outside the most populous, relatively deprived urban areas, which are hardest hit by harmful emissions.

This applies on both a per kilometre and basis and annual basis, although the research highlights that the amount vehicles are used can be more important in determining their annual emissions than their per-kilometre emissions.

The most polluted areas tend to contain ‘older but cleaner cars’, the RAC Foundation said. Where older vehicles are registered in towns and cities they are likely to be driven less far and therefore produce, overall, relatively small amounts of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and carbon dioxide.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘The message is unmistakable. Targeting a scrappage scheme at the owners of old diesel cars in the most polluted areas is not going to get us where we need to be.

‘Scrappage might sound like a sensible quick fix, but the sad fact is that there is no easy solution to our air quality problems.

‘This report confirms that those on the lowest incomes are likely to have the oldest cars but reveals that more often than not they will be petrol rather than diesel. This probably reflects the fact that diesels only make up about a third of the total UK vehicle fleet and many of them will have been bought relatively recently by people thinking they were doing the environmentally-friendly thing.’

One of the report authors, Dr Tim Chatterton from the University of the West of England, Bristol, said: ‘It is time that UK air pollution policy stopped focussing solely on per-kilometre emissions from the vehicle fleet, and began to consider serious options for enabling less traffic on our urban roads.’