Better roads: BRIF tip for Government
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THE last four years have seen a searching review of transport and roads policy, and also five separate official cuts in the road programme — some unofficial and unannounced cuts slipped in as well. As a result, the road programme has been delayed, downgraded and curtailed, said R. H. Phillipson, director of the British Road Federation.
For the first time, the Government, in this month's roads White Paper, has recognised that road-building is an important economic activity in its own right, he said But he added that the White Paper grossly underestimates the numbers whose livelihoods depend on roads they claim 80,000 but BRF believes the number is closer to 200,000. And since 1973 50,000 people have lost their jobs.
Yet unemployment in the Road Construction Units has remained virtually unscathed despite the run-down in the programme. The recent hint of action to reform them came none too soon, he believed.
The roads White Paper spells out five reasons why more roads are needed industrial mobility, industrial development, personal mobility, environment and safety. All the arguments given, and those in the Leitch Report, work to reinforce the case for a bigger road programme, he explained. For example a motorway between Oxford and Birmingham would save 200 fatalities by the end of the century.
Given these strong arguments, it is illogical for the Government not to provide more resources for roads, he said. "Restricting road funds and thus hindering industrial efficiency is in direct contrast with the Government's avowed industrial strategy. If we are to encourage Britain's economic recovery we must shout out the message that the present policy is an economic nonsense and that we need better roads sooner rather than never
FEW DELEGATES expressed any disagreement with Mr Phillipson so discussion was slow to start on Friday morning with many empty seats in the conference hall. J. Barber of the South Yorks area was first to speak. He asked Mr Phillipson what weight he thought should be given to private citizen objections to a proposed route.
Mr Phillipson had made the point earlier that the opinion of an organisation such as the CBI or the TGWU counted for only one voice in the same way as any private person. "I am against using the participation process in such a way as it demands a decision," commented Mr Phillipson.
The place for participation is for the Minister to inform himself through external sources.
"If it's a question of weighing attitudes that have already been decided in advance, then I think it is wrong that an organisation should only be accorded the same weight as an individual. A county council, for example, has the responsibility for all the people in a county for many years to come — a responsibility which will not be shared by Mrs Smith."
J. Goodier of North Western area asked what Mr Phillipson thought of the Transport 2000 organisation. "The best advice I can give you is to make sure that you respond every time you see their views appearing in the press. They are a railway organisation and you should always point this out when you make a reply," he answered.
From the chair Dr Clive Carefoot inquired about the possibilities of toll roads. Mr Phillipson thought that toll roads were not really possible at this stage in the road building programme, although he admitted it worked well on the Continent, where circumstances were different. There, because the motorway system had been on a toll system from the outset, it was a good way of raising revenue from roads.
At this, W. McLucas of Central Scotland area jumped up and said "We've already got a toll on the lrskine bridge. For God's sake don't give them any more ideas."