The Transport Minister Baroness Vere says the Government is making improvements and carrying out essential maintenance so the road network continues to power our economy, while ensuring that the network embraces technology and meets the needs of the green economy.
In a speech to highways and transport professionals at Traffex 2022, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Transport said she believes roads need to be a route to a net zero economy.
“They need to support new forms of mobility, be it active travel and e-scooters; embrace emerging technology such as self-driving vehicles; and accommodate new street architecture such as EV chargepoints,” she said.
“Incredibly, if we eliminated all road emissions, we’d reduce transport’s overall contribution by 90%. That’s a challenge, but also an opportunity.”
She said everyone was touched by air quality and the need to manage congestion. “We need to continue the shift to more sustainable modes of transport. “It has always been the case that roads aren’t just for cars. Managing the network and road space will be more important than ever. Technology will play a very important part in that and the dedicated team at the DfT are there to support the industry. Data, technology and connectivity on strategic network and local roads present a number of opportunities. We have to take the public with us on this so they understand the benefits.”
Baroness Vere told the audience that the government is increasing opportunities for active travel. “We recently announced a £200million investment across 134 Active Travel schemes, which will create new footways, cycle lanes and pedestrian crossings across 46 local authorities outside London,” she said. “19 authorities, including in Nottinghamshire, Hull and Manchester, will receive funding to develop “mini Holland” feasibility studies, and we’ll accelerate the uptake of e-cycles by offering short and long-term loans.”
She then talked about the setting up of Active Travel England under Interim head Chris Boardman, which will raise the standard of walking and cycling infrastructure.
“For decades, road design has prioritised the movement of cars and vans above the impact on people and place, she continued. “We’re changing that by updating the Manual for Streets guidance, which helps practitioners design streets, to put people first and enables those designing streets to do so in a way that contributes to sustainable, healthy and active communities.”
She also discussed the power of technology to improve transport saying: “From traffic signal optimisation, to the development of Urban Traffic Management and Control – or UTMC to its friends – the UK has always been a leader in the design and delivery of traffic management systems that deliver the most efficient networks.
“That’s why the Transport Decarbonisation Plan includes a £15 million investment to 39 local authorities for maintaining and improving their traffic signals. This is essential for reducing congestion and emissions whilst providing priority to bus services, cyclists and pedestrians. But there is a broader digital revolution in roads infrastructure and I expect to see more change in the next decade than we have in the last century. This provides an opportunity to make our roads safer, improve the road user experience, and support our plans for net zero.”
She then pointed to the investment in the ADEPT Live Labs 2 programme, and how will look at new ways to make the construction, maintenance and running of the UK’s roads more sustainable.
“As with most things, collaboration is key,” she concluded. “Our road network needs buy-in, support and expertise from local authorities, businesses, engineers and academics – all pulling together to ensure this crucial national asset continues to serve the entire nation.”
Responding to a question about bus funding, she said: “The National Bus Strategy meant we did have the world in mind. We need buses to move faster across areas to encourage people to use them more.”
She also said new devolution deals are being considered.
(Picture – Highways News)