Government can do more to tackle congestion, say MPs

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Proposals include reinstating M4 lane if assessment proves its worth

The Transport Select Committee has called for the M4 bus lane, scrapped last year, to be reinstated if evidence shows it contributed to faster traffic movement.

This is a recommendation in the committee’s report published last week, ‘Out of the Jam: reducing congestion on our roads’ on the back of its inquiry undertaken by the examining options for curbing congestion without road building or road pricing (the latter ruled out by the current government).

The committee also concluded greater use of real-time information systems and better co-ordination between road management authorities offer affordable methods to curb road congestion.

Committee chair Louise Ellman said: “Congestion costs the economy billions of pounds each year. Improving the way we manage road space so the network runs more smoothly is vital to the prosperity of the nation. Pursuing this challenge should form a key plank of central government transport policy.

“The DfT cannot simply devolve all responsibility for managing the road network to individual highway authorities.

“Ministers must clarify who is responsible for warning road users of impending congestion and work with the transport industry and authorities to increase the availability of such information to drivers through greater use of existing, ‘intelligent traffic management’ systems across local authority boundaries.”

Ellman concluded: “Much more can be done to improve co-ordination between highway authorities and organisations undertaking street works to ensure local authorities use the best available technology to co-ordinate their road or traffic management activities with other highways authorities.”

The transport committee sets out a series of recommendations to government about how to curb congestion and get more out of the existing road network, including:

  • Monitoring cost and safety issues of the ‘managed motorway’ scheme, especially on road stretches where junctions are so widely spaced the use of the hard shoulder by motorists could prevent emergency vehicles from reaching accidents;
  • Requiring all highway authorities to publish traffic management performance measurements, by 2013;
  • Publishing early next year a detailed assessment of traffic flow on the M4 in the year since the bus lane was scrapped, reinstating the lane if evidence shows it contributed to faster traffic movement; and
  • Working more closely with highway authorities to identify the latest forms of intelligent traffic management systems and renew its funding for the so-called ‘ITS Toolkit’ to ensure highway authorities choose the most up-to-date, appropriate systems and can share best practice.