The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has cautiously welcomed the early signs of economic recovery as increasing traffic volumes return to UK roads. However, the leading trade body warned that a return to pre-recession levels of congestion could bring unnecessary costs to the industry and the environment further down the road.
Malcolm Bingham, Head of Road Traffic Management Policy, said:
"Increasing commercial traffic does indicate increasing commercial activity and, after the appalling year the logistics industry has had, it is a relief to see signs of a recovery. But if traffic returns to pre-2008 levels we will be back to square one, with heavy congestion clogging up some of our most essential arterial trade routes."
Congestion costs the UK economy around £20 billion per year and contributes thousands of tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere. To avoid additional costs being heaped on to businesses struggling to emerge out of recession, better use of existing road infrastructure and adoption of intelligent traffic solutions that already exist on some roads must be considered as soon as possible.
FTA endorses the use of active traffic management measures, like hard shoulder running, as temporary ways to relieve congestion on busy trunk roads, where appropriate. However, while these figures are by no means conclusive proof we are out of recession – after all, the run up to Christmas naturally encourages greater traffic levels anyway – when capacity does return to saturation point longer-term solutions will be required.
"There are cost-effective and highly plausible ways that congestion can be mitigated without investing more in our transport infrastructure. A reduction in rates on the under utilised M6 toll road, for example, would relieve pressure on the M6.
"Even greater achievements in reducing road congestion can be found by integrating other modes of transport into our supply chain. One freight train can take 40 lorries off our roads for instance, so investing in rail freight terminals is another long-term solution that we need to seriously consider as the traffic starts to pile up again."