The British Chambers of Commerce has released a special working group report on the UK’s transport problems which sets out how businesses want to see transport infrastructure improve in the next 30 years.

One of the report’s main recommendations is that sustained transport investment be linked to a percentage of GDP at a similar level to the UK’s major competitors and that any investment should form part of a 30 year plan of ongoing improvement.

The report also calls for changes to Britain’s arcane planning system to ensure that for major projects planning should be thorough but much shorter and that there should be a requirement for any impact upon the economy to be assessed during the planning and decision-making process.

BCC Director General, David Frost, said: “A modern effective transport system is an economic imperative and Government cuts to transport expenditure will inevitably damage wealth and cost jobs. The failures of our transport infrastructure caused by under-investment currently cost British business £15 billion a year.”

”Transport infrastructure development, like energy infrastructure, is of national significance and should therefore be considered along the lines of the current consultation for new nuclear build. A “Statement of Need” should be developed which avoids a planning enquiry except to examine local plans or environmental impacts.”

“Our members regularly put transport first or certainly in their top three when asked about their priority policy issues. In a 2004 BCC survey 56pc of respondents said that the transport infrastructure has a major influence on where they locate.”

“Capacity problems across the transport infrastructure cause serious congestion. This affects roads, rail and ports and unless further investment is put into the network the country will grind to a halt. Businesses want to see tough measures and innovative solutions, such as road pricing or the active traffic management (ATM) scheme.”

The report looks at every aspect of Britain’s transport conundrum and makes a series of recommendations, including:

  • Greater clarity of role and responsibility amongst the national, regional and local decision-making bodies . Regional Economic Strategy and the other regional strategies, including the Regional Spatial Strategy, have different timescales: it is time for better integration of regional strategies and coordination between regional bodies, such as the Regional Assemblies and Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).
  • Better management of current network capacities by demand management; the development of environmentally clean technology; the incentivisation of efficient technology use; and the application of technological expertise to finding solutions that serve the economy and the environment;
  • Long-term national funding that incorporates a mix of central government funding, private investment and other appropriate sources such as road user charging to facilitate planning and implementation of complex long-term transport programmes. This money should be split into two pots that fund a) a strategic national network of roads, rail, ports and airports and b) a regional allocation controlled by regional strategic transport bodies.
  • Ensuring that road pricing schemes are complemented by decent, viable public transport alternatives and a greater proportion of the monies raised from road users hypothecated into investment in the road infrastructure.
  • New rail funding projects should be assessed as quickly as possible to prevent prolonged uncertainty and the resultant damage to businesses.
  • The business community must play an active role in the rail transport debate and it is of great concern that the organisations currently running the railways incorporate no formal mechanisms for business representation.
  • Consideration should also be given to the possibility of tax relief, at source, for season tickets purchased by or through the employer to stimulate modal shift.