One in five miles of A-roads in England failed a recent safety test by a leading motoring organisation.
In a report published today researchers from the AA Motoring Trust branded the nation's roads a "disgrace". The organisation said billions of pounds were required to improve standards of roads maintained by local authorities, which were costing hundreds of lives a year because of accidents.
The AA report found that 20 per cent of A-roads, equalling 3,400 miles, failed a basic skid test. Standards on B-roads and C-roads were even worse.
The Government needs to invest £300m over the next seven years because about one third of road bridges were too weak to carry current levels of traffic. Researchers found that about 250,000 lampposts had reached the end of their 30-year lives and were in danger of collapse.
The report made a mockery of the Government's 10-year plan to make Britain's transportation system the rival of any in Europe, according to the AA Motorist Trust director, John Dawson.
Mr Dawson said: "(The Government) now knows that the idea that Britain's transport could rival any in Europe by 2010 is plain silly while, in this country, we invest so much less than other European countries. It knows now that the rot on roads and bridges matches the rot on rail and underground."
Mr Dawson said more of the £38 billion a year that British road users pay in taxation needs to go into a trust fundpaid out only to local authorities who deliver a well-maintained and safe roads system.
Meanwhile, one of the Government's leading transport advisers has indicated a nationwide system of toll-charging is inevitable.Professor David Begg, who chairs the Commission for Integrated Transport, said the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling was "very serious" about road-charging measures to cut congestion. Professor Begg said the Government was considering the use of satellite tracking of car computers even for the smallest country lane. Charges of up to 16 pence per mile in congested areas would be offset by cuts in petrol costs and the abolition of tax discs.
Professor Begg told the Sunday Mirror: "It is now a matter of when, not if. Six months ago, it was on the shelf, but Mr Darling is now very serious about it. The Government has realised that there is only one way to reduce congestion and that does not mean trying to build a way out of it."
Britain's first pay motorway, the M6 Toll, near Birmingham, opened fully at the weekend. Professor Begg said nationwide such a scheme could reduce congestion by 30 per cent and pollution by 40 per cent.