Investing the same level of funding into the road network as the £55.7bn earmarked for HS2 would deliver four times the economic growth, according to a report commissioned by FairFuelUK (FFUK).
The report, Roads Investment for UK Growth, by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, argues that investment into the UK’s roads has taken a backseat to rail in recent years, resulting in an underfunded, uncompetitive road network which is undermining the UK’s economy.
It calculates that, with UK road traffic set to increase by over 31% from 2013 to 2030, congestion will cost the UK economy a total of £307bn in the period, unless the government ups its road funding.
The report also points to a report from the World Economic Forum that ranked the UK’s road infrastructure in 27th place, with Germany and France taking 16th and 6th place respectively.
It argues that road schemes offer better value for money and bring greater benefits to the UK economy, pointing to a DfT study of 180 road and rail schemes which found that the average benefit to cost ratio (BCR) for rail schemes is 2.83, compared to a BCR of 4.66 for Highway Agency (England) road schemes, and 4.23 into local roads schemes.
“This disparity is especially important given the large proportion of transport public spending which is directed into railways, in particular through large-scale, high-cost rail projects,” the report argues.
Using HS2 as an example the report propounds that “had the same investment currently budgeted for HS2 been directed into road, there would be benefits of £250.7bn. This is more than four times the expected net benefits of the entire HS2 network.
“For the same cost as HS2, it would be possible to widen over 1,900 miles of motorway, enough to widen every motorway in England. For just over a third of the cost of HS2, a smart Active Traffic Management system could be applied to every motorway in the UK, yielding benefits of almost £117bn.”
FFUK campaigner Quentin Willson said: “These are truly shameful numbers in the CEBR’s analysis: the UK’s road network ranks 27th in the world and in the next 13 years, congestion will cost the country £300bn.
“But despite 90% of all journeys taken by road in 2016, rail travel received nine times more investment. And with our road network such a snarling, constipated ruin we wonder why pollution is at record levels?’
FFUK founder Howard Cox told Motortransport.co.uk: “We are not saying HS2 should be stopped, simply the same investment on roads infrastructure across the whole of the UK will deliver four times more growth to the economy.
"And as a result, congestion will be reduced and pollution would fall. The road freight industry would not be held up, costs would decrease and profits rise. Great news for all.”
Tory MP Charlie Elphicke, chairman of the FFUK All-Party Parliamentary Group, said: "It's clear that investing in roads will both cut pollution and drive Britain's economy forward.
"Gridlock is a major cause of road pollution. Congestion clogs up the economy and delays the hardworking truckers and van drivers who are the lifeblood of our nation. France has built 20 times more new motorways than we have in recent years. It's time we caught up."
It comes as two separate reports highlighted the UK has some of the most congested cities in the world.