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Transport User Voice – November 2018 – Putting the user centre stage in future roads investment

29 October 2018

Ensuring the Government’s new strategy (RIS2) addresses the needs of road users

The Government has just published its proposed Roads Investment Strategy (RIS2) – the objectives that will frame the next five-year period of investment in England’s motorways and major roads, starting in 2020. This follows up the consultation the Department for Transport (DfT) ran at the start of this year on Highways England’s proposed set of investment priorities; and it constitutes an important staging post in firming up the new strategy, a process in which Transport Focus is playing a key role. Working alongside the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the regulator advising on efficiency, we are helping DfT and Highways England ensure that RIS2 addresses the needs of road users.

Transport Focus responded to that consultation based on the summary we published last summer on Road users’ priorities for the 2020-25 period. It’s great to see the roads minister Jesse Norman focusing up-front on the need for reliably smooth journeys for users on the Strategic Road Network (SRN), with journey times regularly matching that predicted. And he has taken on board two specific user priorities we had highlighted: the need for consistent, high-quality road surfaces, and the need to integrate the management of the SRN with the rest of the transport system, so that users do not encounter friction where it joins with other networks, such as local authority roads. Transport Focus has secured greater recognition of the value for users of investment in operating and maintaining the existing SRN, as well as in adding to the capacity of the network.

We had also urged the Government to ‘future-proof’ its investment in roads, and the draft RIS has much to say about how vehicle and infrastructure technologies can best be deployed to allow more journeys to be made on the SRN and to provide the highest standards of user experience. We are pleased to see the undertaking to use new technology to smooth the process of updating the network, in order to reduce disruption to travellers.

As with all our work on behalf of users of Highways England’s roads, we have stressed the distinct needs of the different types of user. This is now prominently recognised in the draft RIS:  it commits, for example, to a range of measures to improve the service provided to freight logistics businesses, including ensuring sufficient, optimally-located parking and rest facilities. DfT envisages targeted improvements to address the safety and comfort needs of cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians, including, potentially, some separate, parallel provision.

The publication of the draft RIS marks the end of the research phase of the preparation for 2020 onwards, with the focus shifting now to decisions about which specific investments need to be made. But Transport Focus will remain closely involved in the process, including decisions about the performance specification to be set for Highways England from 2020. The Government’s statement this week makes it clear that this specification will reflect users’ key priorities, especially those that Transport Focus has highlighted. We will continue to enrich the evidence base – through, for example, the outputs from our new Strategic Roads User Survey – to ensure that the decisions being lined up do indeed deliver on what users need.

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