London boroughs have urged the Government to find a new way of funding borough road maintenance expenditure, and have called for some of the most important borough roads to be included in the next revision of the Major Road Network.
A submission to the DfT by the London Technical Advisors Group says borough road maintenance needs are overlooked in the national funding debate. “The average London borough’s population now far exceeds that of Norwich or Exeter and is equivalent to that of Newcastle or Nottingham, however we are very aware that the ‘voice’ of such boroughs can seem far quieter on the national stage than other distinct urban areas.
“Perhaps that is why it has passed largely un-noted that in April 2018 Transport for London effectively ended discrete Government funding for the London boroughs’ highway networks.”
LoTAG says borough road maintenance funding is now dependent on TfL’s fare revenues. “No asset management regime worth considering can effectively manage the volatility of funding that being linked wholly to farebox revenue from the public transport network will lead to,” it says. “We would like to open a discussion about whether London boroughs need a minimum funding floor – potentially with incentive funding arrangements for good performance that enables ministerial ambitions, and resident/business expectations, to be met.”
LoTAG expresses disappointment with the final version of the DfT’s Major Road Network.
“Whilst we welcome the inclusion of some London roads within the newly defined MRN, the absence of any such roads in inner London, and the lack of any borough-controlled roads full stop, is deeply concerning. We would welcome early conversations around when the MRN might be refreshed to include some of the busier borough roads and particularly those defined as the strategic road network [by the Traffic Management Act 2004]”.
Boroughs would like more autonomy, says LoTAG. “We note that other sub-national bodies and combined authorities appear to operate greater subsidiarity [than TfL]. TfL’s seeming increasing desire to control local highway authority schemes through their role as traffic signal authority can work against the efficient delivery of improvement schemes.
“The ‘gold plating of requirements for traffic modelling in particular can delay implementation unnecessarily.”
LoTAG vents frustration at the number of “costly and time-consuming funding competitions”. It estimates that in the last two years, boroughs have made over 400 bids under 16 different transport programmes run by TfL, the Greater London Authority and central government agencies.
Of 28 bids made to TfL’s Liveable Neighbourhood Fund, only seven were successful. It adds: “To date, very little of this funding has actually hit the ground, unlike money provided by formula, which is close to 100 per cent utilised each year.”
LoTAG’s paper discusses possible areas of legislative change.
“A return of powers to enforce waiting and loading restrictions via CCTV for our busiest roads would do much to reduce unnecessary congestion caused by anti-social parking. These powers could be usefully extended to mandatory cycle lanes, Advance Stop Lines and 20mph limits.
“On 20mph limits in particular there is something approaching consensus across London that without our ability to enforce lower speed limits, ‘vision zero’ is likely to remain little more than a noble aspiration.”
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