New roads 'offer poor value for money'

THE pounds 2bn per year spent by the Government on building roads gives poor value in economic and employment terms, according to a report published yesterday.

The study was compiled for Alarm UK, a federation of pressure groups campaigning against road developments, in response to the Autumn Statement, which preserved investment on roads while cutting support for British Rail and London Transport.

It argues that road building does little to improve industry's efficiency because transport of goods makes up only 2 per cent of costs. And, often, increased congestion nullifies the reduction in journey times. More jobs are created by investment in rail than in road schemes, it suggests. For example, one job per year on London's Jubilee Line Tube extension costs pounds 50,000 to create compared with pounds 67,000 for widening the M1.

Jeremy Bray, the report's author, also quotes a European conference of ministers of transport which concluded: 'Connecting an economically strong region to a weak one does not necessarily help the latter . . .'

Dr Bray said that in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s major road construction in the North-east grew much faster but did nothing to help local unemployment, which went from third worst in the country to worst.

The Department of Transport justifies road schemes with a form of cost-benefit analysis which calculates marginal savings in journey times and puts a value on them in terms of labour time wasted. But Dr Bray questions this methodology and says the department 'does not use this analysis to prioritise the most important schemes', nor cost benefit analysis for other forms of transport.