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Bold Road Policy Essential

23rd June 1944, Page 31
23rd June 1944
Page 31
Page 31, 23rd June 1944 — Bold Road Policy Essential
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

B.R. F . and Roads Improvement Association Have Done Excellent Work To Promote Better Roads and War Demands Have Proved the Need For Motorways

AMONGST a variety of important subjects discussed in the House of Commons from time to time, and bearing largely on reconstruction, is that of roads. For more than a decade prior to the war a strenuous campaign was conducted by the British Road Federation, on behalf of the road transport industry, in an effort to induce the several Governments in power during that period to adopt a bold road-planning policy. The campaign was carried to chambers of commerce, chambers of trade and rotary clubs, and excellent propaganda found its way to all parts of the country. By such means, undoubtedly, public opinion was strongly influenced in favour of the demands made by the B.R.F.

Then war came to put an end to the continuance of some of these activities. That, of course, was as it should be; for, in a world at war, there are matters of supreme and vital importance to be discussed and decisions reached. Quite rightly, all efforts have been concentrated upon war needs and the ramifications thereof, in addition to the multitude of problems demanding •urgent and immediate attention. So the B.R.F. road campaign, perforce, slid away, with the exception of a long series of lectures, the production of a bulletin, and a fine exhibition. The Roads Improvement Association has also proved to be a staunch advocate.

Now, after a lapse of nearly five years, the war itself, without the aid of any great publicity campaign, has caused the Government to recognize the necessity of a road programme. Moreover, this is an item which stands high on the list of reconstruction priorities. All that has been gleaned so far from statements made by members of the Government concerning a road plan is disappointing and fails to engender conviction.

Before the war traffic congestion had reached unmanageable proportions. Road transport was, in fact, entangled in a mesh of inadequate roads. Traffic was becoming choked, not only in the towns and industrial centres, but also on the roads to the coast. Rather than face such conditions large numbers of motorists preferred to " stay put" at the week-ends. Indeed, the return journey on Sunday from almost any coastal resort was not only a nightmare but a test of physical endurance.

Justification for a Big Road Programme All this goes to prove, therefore, that the question of roads assumes an economic as well' as a social character. During the war years the country has been so saturated with propaganda to save this and that commodity that surely there must be ample justification for a road programme calculated to meet modern needs and requiremeitts. Proposals were made by bold planners in pre-war days and various committees have presented reports to the Government during the war, for motorways designed to carry high-speed transport exclusively. Engineers have visualized an entirely new system of trunk roads radiating throughout the country, Before the war organized parties, which included Members of Parliament, visited Germany for the express purpose of inspecting the autobahnen, which latter were reputed to incorporate the last word in road design and construction. .

In spite, however, of the availability of this knowledge, the statement made on the subject, early in the year,

by Mr. P. J. Noel-Baker, in the House of Commons, was disappointing and disheartening. This is what he said: "While the Government do not think there is sufficient justification for the embarking upon the construction of a Widespread system of entirely new roads reserved exclusively for motor .traffic, they are satisfied that it will be expedient and economical to construct suitable lengths of roads oi this type where engineering and traffic considerations make this course preferable to the extensive remodelling of existing roads in an attempt to make them more suitable and safer for mixed traffic."

The foregoing statement implies unmistakably that no advance "has been made upon the pre-war method of tinkering with existing roads. Cutting off a cornet here and widening a .stretch of road there is merely playing with the problem. Any •continuance of such a course would be disastrous and would fail completely to meet the demands of the reconstruction period. .

Mr. Noel-Baker On Traffic Segregation In the course of a speech which he made at Manchester last month, Mr. Noel-Baker remarked that there would have to be a great deal of road engineering—new roads and improvements cutting, out the dangerous intersections at crossings, either by roundabouts or more elaborate and expensive devices. He added that the segregation of different kinds of traffic would have tc be carried much farther, as it was quite absurd to allow the 10-ton lorry, the private car, and even children and deaf and blind persons, to be "all mixed up" on the same road. These views expressed by Mr. Noel-Baker are, in effect, but the echo of some of the arguments submitted by road users long before the war in an appeal for a bold schenie of road construction. The attention of road users is called to a particularly significant remark made by Mr. Noel-Baker in the course of his Manchester speech. When he made reference to the interim period immediately following the war he said "the flood of motor vehicles would return to the roads." Does this infer the removal of war-time control and a return to freedom for hauliers?

Bound up so very closely with roads is the serious accident problem. , The figures relating to civilian casualties on the roads since the commencement of the war are staggering, and number in killed and injured some 588,000. Against this the total of killed and wounded on all fighting fronts for the same period is 370,000. There can be little wonder that the members of the House of Commons were shocked when they received this information. There is no bright spot. to be found in this lamentable state of affairs. An increase would assume the proportions of a major military campaign. The seriousness of the problem, • undoubtedly, became submerged in the pressing events of the war, and propaganda, by whatever means it may be employed, is limited in effect. White lines, brilliant studs, beacons and all similar devices rank only as aids to safety. They are .palliatives rather than cures.

Road planning and accidents cannot be separated. one from the other, and any attempt to tinker with existing highways in an effort to alleviate the condition must prove futile. Nothing short of a bold scheme for the construction of entirely new roads will suffice.

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