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'We don't have enough roads for 65m people and 40m cars'

Mike Rutherford says basic sums confirm that there simply isn't enough road space for all the people and cars in this country

Opinion: real world mpg testing

On our side sit committed motor industry engineers and designers who ensure that cars are better, more reliable and efficient than ever. On the other you’ll find couldn’t-give-a-toss ministers, civil servants, councillors, transport agencies and others who have allowed Britain’s road network to get worse, less reliable and inefficient.   

The actual routes, iffy surfaces and faded signs aren’t the main issue. Badly managed roadworks, worsening and intolerable congestion and increasingly unpredictable journey times cause the real frustration. 

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First-hand experience tells me that other developed countries are more adept at fixing broken roads. And basic sums confirm that Britain simply doesn’t have enough highways for the circa 65million folk and almost 40m vehicles registered here. Factor in unknown numbers of visitors to Blighty, plus their foreign-registered vehicles, and the paralysis of our network is even more acute. 

• "Without access to a car, I felt like a prisoner"

The UK is tiny – half the size of Spain and smaller than many US states. Looking at citizens per square mile (660), we’ve got twice as many as France, ten times more than Sweden and 75 times more than Canada.

Our dysfunctional motorway network is so short, stagnant and strangled that vehicle density on our ‘fastest’ roads is more than twice the EU average. Germany, Italy and France have motorway networks that are three times larger than ours. For decades, drivers in Britain have stumped up around £60billion (in today’s money) in annual road user taxation. This could easily pay for urgently required upgraded and new roads and bridges. But the vast majority of the £60bn is siphoned off into areas such as cycle highways, high-speed railways, colossal bus and train subsidies, wars in the Middle East, MPs’ expenses, you name it. 

• 'The 124 Spider could be the car to reignite Fiat's fortunes'

Meanwhile, tens of millions of car-using people and businesses in Britain are – on a daily basis – grossly disrupted, worn down and damaged by our congested, time-wasting, unfit-for-purpose road network. School, work, social, family and business lives are being ruined. A proper, life-altering roads revolution now needs to be one of Britain’s top priorities.

How do we effect such change? You tell me! E-mail your revolutionary proposals to mike_rutherford@dennis.co.uk.

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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