Last month, the Conservative Party gained an overall majority at the General Election and became the next government of the UK. But what does this mean for British motorists?
During the election campaign, the NHS, welfare, immigration and austerity were predictably at the top of the agenda. There was scant attention paid to the needs of the UK’s drivers, even though the road network impacts on every single person in the country, as well as the economy.
One question on the minds of many drivers and motoring organisations is “Will the Conservatives establish a successful strategy to tackle Britain’s pothole problem?”
A poll carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motorists in March showed that road users want potholes tackled more than anything else, so it should be a high priority for the new Government.
Such is the strength of feeling about the state of the UK’s roads that 36% of motorists would willingly pay more road tax if the additional funds were ring-fenced to go into improving local roads. In addition, 85% of drivers would like to see a higher proportion of transport investment spent on improving the condition of existing local roads.
In their manifesto, the Conservatives promised enough funding to fix 18 million potholes nationwide between 2015 and 2021. This sounds very positive and if followed through will prove popular with motorists, especially as the £6 billion declared to repair potholes in the previous Road Investment Strategy was nowhere near enough.
But the Conservatives are unlikely to see the roads returned to their former glory in this term, as it would take more than ten years of work to get Britain’s streets back to an acceptable condition.
The RAC has witnessed first-hand the harm that potholes can do to vehicles, especially to alloy wheels. Between 2012 and 2013, they experienced a 67% increase in vehicles damaged by them, sometimes badly enough to require breakdown assistance.
Following the re-appointment of Patrick McLoughlin as Secretary of State for Transport, RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “There is now a golden opportunity for the Transport Secretary to oversee the delivery of the commitments included in the Road Investment Strategy (RIS) and in his party’s manifesto.
“The UK’s motorists, who are among the most heavily taxed in Europe, can look forward to benefiting from the boldest investment plan in a generation for England’s strategic roads, which will tackle some of the nation’s worst bottlenecks and congestion pinch points.
“But the political foot must not be taken off the gas – there are a number of pressing issues that the Transport Secretary must now get to grips with such as ensuring the UK’s pothole crisis is finally resolved with equally imaginative plans to tackle the maintenance backlog on local roads and examining the contribution that the whole transport sector can make to improving air quality.”
Potholes aren’t the only issue facing British drivers. The RAC believes the short-term motoring agenda for the new Government should be delivering the wider RIS on time and on budget, continuing with the fuel duty freeze, publishing the green paper on reducing accidents involving young drivers, and reintroducing national casualty reduction targets.