South West Road Networks Need More Investment

25th April, 2013
The Institution of Civil Engineers South West (ICE) has welcomed Stephen Hammond?s announcement of new road improvements to improve congestion in the South West, but is concerned that they don?t go far enough.

ICE?s ?State of the Nation? report 2013 is due out later in the year with a focus on transport, which, with its peripheral location and recent extreme weather, is a particularly critical issue for the South West.

ICE is also emphasising that it?s not just getting into or out of the South West that needs investment, as travelling within the region can also be beset with problems.

Trish Johnson, Regional Director for the Institution of Civil Engineers South West, said: ?In terms of our transport infrastructure, the South West is rapidly becoming the poor relation within the UK.

?This includes our road systems, which are crucial for linking the region to the rest of the country. The road network is deteriorating faster than it is maintained, with network resilience reduced the further west one needs to travel.

?In a region with such distinct rural and coastal geography and limited public transport systems, the road network is crucial for businesses, communities and our economy. It is vital that the government takes a strategic approach to the South West?s transport infrastructure before it reaches a crisis.

?ICE would also like to see an improvement in public transport provision, making it sustainable as well as improving journey times and access to public services for the rural population.?

One of the key projects ICE would like to see receive investment is the proposal for duelling the A303. Supported by the Heart of the South West (HotSW), Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) the single lane A303 is often a bottleneck, choking the second arterial road route into and out of the far South West.

A joint delegation, consisting of HotSW LEP, Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, and Somerset and Devon Local Authorities, recently visited Minister Stephen Hammond, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, to make progress on this issue.As well as duelling the A303, other key strategic routes are in need of attention. The A30 through Cornwall still remains single lane at points and the A31 linking Dorset to the South East needs upgrading. At the other end of the region, in Bristol, the M4 in both directions to London as well as South Wales, and the M5 interchange going up to the Midlands and the North, are also in need of improvement.

Tim Jones, Chair of HotSW, said: ?The road networks are a vital element of the region?s economy both for our outward routes to market and inward supply chain.

?The further away from London we get, the more there is a measurable decrease in economic performance.  For the far South West, in particular, this is exacerbated when our road systems are vulnerable to severe weather, accidents and road closures.

?If we want to attract inward investment and more international companies to locate here, our road system must be robust.?

The Institution of Civil Engineers? ?State of the Nation: Transport? report for 2013 will be launched in June. ICE South West will be contributing to the paper with a South West perspective on all transport infrastructure.