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road works signs If you could tell the Government how to spend their road investment budget, what would you suggest?

Recent research carried out by independent watchdog Transport Focus revealed that almost two-thirds (65%) of focus group participants said it was more important to maintain existing roads than build new ones.

Researchers analysed the views of more than 5,628 road users (4,818 of whom were car or van drivers) about what they felt should be the top priority for road improvement. Among all user groups, the No 1 priority was 'improved quality of road surfaces'. And this was followed closely by safer design and upkeep of roads.

Car and van drivers were asked to describe in their own words how National Highways (formerly Highways England) could improve the overall experience for road users – 15% mentioned potholes and the fixing of potholes to be the main area where they would like to see improvement.

Repair and maintenance of the roads, including better quality roads, came in second followed by removal and reduction of the number of smart motorways (which were perceived as dangerous by some respondents).

Maintain existing roads rather than build new

Car and van drivers overwhelmingly agreed (91%) about the importance of providing proper maintenance of motorways and major A roads already in use – 63% agreed strongly. When asked about whether it was important to build new motorways, A roads and create more lanes on existing highways, only 29% agreed strongly with this statement.

When asked which of the two routes for improvement was more important 65% (almost two-thirds) of car and van drivers said the maintenance of existing roads should be the priority.

Don't just patch the potholes

Road users told the researchers about their feelings on potholes and the maintenance of damage to road surfaces.

One respondent said, "All they seem to do is patch it, say if there’s a pothole or a winter frost. Patch it up, and three weeks later it needs doing again.” While another said that National Highways should “fill in the potholes at least. Preferably resurface as most roads are terrible."

Other areas of concern

While improved quality of road surfaces and safe design of roads were the top concerns, other top priorities for improvement included:

  • Better management of road works
  • Better management of unplanned delays (such as accidents or breakdowns)
  • Better information about unplanned disruptions (including accidents)
  • Better behaved drivers

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said of the findings, "There are clear messages from road users. The majority want the focus to be on keeping National Highways’ existing roads in good order before building new ones.

"I hope that this insight will be helpful to the Government, National Highways, and the Office of Rail and Road as they each contribute to the development of the third [Road Investment Strategy]."

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