London Roads Task Force 09 Jul 2013

RAC Foundation welcomes talk of 'crossrail for cars'

The RAC Foundation has warmly welcomed the publication of the report by the Mayor of London’s Roads Task Force and supports the bulk of its recommendations.

The Task Force report comes out on the same day as a survey for the RAC Foundation of 2,000 London drivers is also published.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“We warmly welcome this report which underlines the importance of roads and road transport in the capital. Against a backdrop of rising population and employment it shows the urgent need for a long term strategy for roads and streets combining short-term fixes and ambitious longer-term plans, both to keep London moving, and maintain and improve the quality of the places where people live and work. 

“The RAC Foundation’s own survey shows that London’s drivers are not defined by the car. More than half use the tube at least once a week, while a third take the train and one in six cycle. Yet TfL figures demonstrate that across Greater London the car remains the dominant form of travel. For great many Londoners the car is public transport.

“The report’s conclusions that using things like smart traffic signals and better real time-travel information to help road users navigate the capital’s congestion closely match the thoughts of those who took part in our poll. The capital’s motorists put better management of road works, increased parking provision, improved traffic light synchronisation and lower transport fares at the top of the Mayor’s to-do list.

“It is exciting to see tunnelling projects akin to a ‘cross-rail for cars’ tunnelling being discussed. Space is at a premium in London and we have to use imaginative ways of generating new road capacity to replace road space allocated for other improvements, while recognising the need to improve safety and cut emissions. Going underground has proved successful in cities such as Paris and Munich, and of course is no novelty to Tube passengers. Funding will be the challenge, but with 80% of London’s journeys on the road network, a commitment to investment on a scale comparable to that for public transport in the capital is necessary and overdue.”

This is the Foundation’s full take on the Roads Task Force report:

  • RACF recognises that London’s global competitiveness, economic strength and growth potential depends on maintaining efficient movement for the 80% of journeys and 90% of freight which uses the road network – but also on creating and maintaining an attractive environment and high quality public realm where millions of people live, work and shop, and encouraging more use of sustainable modes of travel for getting about
  • The RTF report gets to grips with the tensions and conflicts inherent in pursuing these objectives:   we commend the boldness of vision which envisages
    • Setting a clear long term strategy for London’s roads and streets, supported by a substantial commitment to investment of £30bn over 20 years
    • Working out a balance between the demands of ‘movement’ and ‘place’ which differs across London for different types of road and street
    • Progressing plans for congestion-busting and relocating road capacity and in parallel with improving public space in critical areas and facilitating more walking and cycling
  • RACF strongly supports the RTF’s proposals for short term measures to alleviate the daily frustration of motorists such as
    • Extending technology to reduce delays at traffic signals and smooth traffic flows
    • Speeding post-incident clear ups  and the re-opening of the road
    • giving road users better real-time information about road congestion, including roadside variable message signs
    • Tackling known pinchpoints with low cost quick-win improvement schemes, especially at junctions
    • Better quality and clearer information about parking 

Our own London Drivers’ Survey published today shows 60% of drivers are concerned about delays due to congestion, road works and traffic signals, and a quarter concerned about parking.

  • We support measures to encourage greater use of public transport, cycling and walking, but with over half of all Londoners’ travel mileage[1] made by car[2], the needs of car-based mobility, especially in outer London where three quarters of travel mileage is by car and there are fewer practical alternatives, must be fully recognised.
  • With some 30%[3] of all travel and transport on London’s roads directly linked with employment and business activity, setting a strategy and long term investment plan for London’s roads and streets is essential to underpin the capital’s competitiveness and economic strength.
  • London motorists are not a separate breed with a focus only on roads:  our own London Drivers’ Survey reveals that
    • At least once a week: over half of them use a bus, over half use the tube or DLR, one third use national rail and one in 6 use a cycle
    • There is some willingness to consider switching out of car use if alternative travel were cheaper, fuel became more expensive or congestion got worse
    • When given choices about what the Mayor could do to improve travel in London, speeding up road works, increasing parking provision and reducing public transport fares each attracted over a third of the votes
    • The most important issues raised spontaneously by the respondents were dealing with potholes, improving public transport and improving relationships between different groups of road users

[1] Excluding walking

[2] TfL Travel in London 5, January 2013

[3] RACF estimate from Travel in London 4 and Travel in London 5