£317 million ‘Pinch Point Programme’ backfires

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Published on 9 April 2019 by Mike Waters

A government scheme intended to ease congestion on the UK’s motorways and major roads has been found to have actually made congestion worse.

Analysis of the National Pinch Point Programme, which was launched by Highways England in 2011 at a cost of £317 million, found that there were some improvements to traffic flow during rush hours, but that efforts to help congestion often caused the very delays they were supposed to prevent at other times.

Admitting that “the evidence indicated that improving the peaks has for some schemes created delays during the off peaks”, a report by Highways England also identified the need “to consider the impact across all 168 hours of the week, not just the 10-30 peak hours in a week.”

In particular, a review of 54 of the programme’s 119 schemes found that many problems arose after traffic lights were introduced on certain motorways and A roads. The M40 in Oxfordshire and the M6 near Merseyside were both heavily disrupted, while congestion at the junction between the A49 and the A5 in Shrewsbury was also found to have worsened despite £2.5 million of investment.

The programme was also intended to stimulate economic growth thanks to smoother transport links, and improvements in housing and jobs were identified as potential areas where benefits could occur. However, Highways England’s report concluded that it has not yet had sufficient time to determine “whether or not these benefits have been realised” and that it was “too early to draw conclusions” about whether the programme constituted effective value for money.

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