The Department for Transport has published its Road Investment Strategy with details of £15bn expenditure on the Strategic Road Network. I have a critique of this programme published in Local Transport Today. I argue that, as ever, you can’t build your way out of congestion, but you can use the digital technologies to help drivers use the network more efficiently under congested conditions. The Highways Agency places far too much emphasis on the civil engineering technologies, and too little of the digital technologies.

Metz LTT Roads pdf 18-12-14


NNNPS stands for National Networks National Policy Statement. The UK government has issued a draft for consultation. This covers national perspectives for future road and rail developments and is intended to be approved by Parliament and provide a settled input to local planning enquiries into specific schemes.

There is quite a lot wrong with the consultation draft. I have submitted a response  Metz NNNPS response 26-2-14. My main concerns are the following.

There are good reasons to suppose that the National Transport Model substantially overestimates future demand on the Strategic Road Network. The traffic projections do not therefore provide a sound basis for the scale of investment planned by the Government. The Model needs to be made public and available for independent audit.

A major shortcoming of the NTM is its inability to model the consequences of a strategic choice between greenfield and urban housing to accommodate the growing population.

There is a good case for investment in the network where this can make land accessible for development, consistent with planning policy. However, constructing additional carriageway is not an effective means of reducing congestion.

The main problem with congestion is the uncertainty of journey time. This is tackled most cost-effectively by provision of reliable predictive journey time information.

A strategic issue for national Government is where to accommodate the UK’s growing population since this will determine the kind of investment needed in the transport system. In London, transport investment can be planned to respond to population growth. Nationally, there is no such coherence.

I presented a paper (Metz ETC 15-9-13) at the recent European Transport Conference held in Frankfurt. This shows how car use in London rose from about 5% of all journeys in 1950 to 50% by 1990 – no surprise there. But then it started falling, to 38% currently, and projected to fall further to 30% before 2040. This is surprising since car use has always risen with growing incomes. However, in London we have not built new road capacity, which has constrained car use to a steady 10m trips a day for each of the past 20 years. But because the population has been growing, these car trips represent a declining share of all travel. This is the clearest illustration of the phenomenon of Peak Car.

I also suggest that growing cities in developing countries, where car use is still low, may be able to avoid this peak and move directly to a more sustainable level of around 30% for a city of 10m. The key policies to achieve this are to provide rail travel for work journeys since this can get business and professional people out of their cars, and limit parking in the city centre to keep buses, taxis, good delivery and emergency vehicles moving.

I have a new paper published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use, title ‘Mobility, access and choice: a new source of evidence’. The new source is the UK Department for Transport’s accessibility statistics, which relate where people live (census data) to where are located services and facilities such as doctors, hospitals, schools etc. My analysis allows estimates of how much choice people have, dependent on their mode of travel. I find that for those with use of a car or good public transport, levels of choice are quite high, consistent with the proposition that demand for travel has ceased to grow because we have enough choice to meet our needs.

This Journal is unusual in that it is available free of charge online without charging authors for the costs of publication. Commendable.

These are my key papers published since 2008 in peer-reviewed journals, and also my book published in that year.

There is also a review paper on Mobility and Access Needs, Expectations and Costs, published by the International Transport Forum of the OECD (2011)