Mike Rutherford: Let road users take control

What, for example, has the Transport Select Committee said or done of any importance in, say, the last decade - a period in which the roads and railways have been subject to huge increases in user costs, congestion, frustration and pollution? Nothing as far as I can tell.

But I'm surprised and delighted to report that the Committee of Public Accounts (CoPA) is more than justifying its existence by concluding that the Highways Agency is....er, useless.

Of course, that's not the exact wording CoPA uses to describe the organisation that tries and fails to successfully run our major roads. But it's pretty close. The agency is, among other things, timid, ineffective, failing and guilty of infuriating its clients, of which there are tens of millions. And yes, those are the committee's words.

A few days before the official publication of the committee's report on June 28, I personally experienced inaction and incompetence Highways Agency-style.

The central reservation on the M25 near the Clacket Lane service area was damaged and in need of repair. Instead of immediately getting on with the job, a workforce was brought in to cone off a lane in each direction in preparation for the eventual arrival of another workforce, I presume, to carry out the repairs.

There wasn't adequate advanced warning of the project. There wasn't a single worker on site when, after much delay, I eventually crawled past the damaged crash barrier on Saturday afternoon. I was one of the lucky ones since the time I lost - I guess it was about an hour - was unimportant.

Some of the tens of thousands of car occupants surrounding me weren't so lucky. The M25, after all, is the gateway to places such as Dover, Gatwick and Heathrow.

If an employer used the same sort of language to describe an employee as the CoPA chose to refer to the Highways Agency, the individual concerned would be fired and possibly taken to court.

So why isn't the employer - in this case the Government's very own Department for Transport - sacking the Highways Agency? The organisation has certainly put itself in an untenable position.

Who should take over? It's obvious. The people who use and care about it - the motorists, truckers, van drivers, bikers, coach operators and taxi drivers who have paid for our roads several times over thanks to the hundreds of billions they've contributed in taxes.

A long line of clueless transport ministers have proved that they simply can't handle the roads or the people who drive on them. Hand these highways back to the citizens. We want control of the road network - an asset belonging to nobody but us.

The writer is founder of The Motorists' Association

motoring@independent.co.uk

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