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'Invest or road network dies' says RAC

The UK motorist has been dubbed the 'poor man of Europe' in a new report highlighting how they pay more tax than other drivers in Europe this country has one of the most inadequate road systems.

Britain’s major road network has increased by less than one per cent over the last decade - even though the volume of traffic has grown by 36% on motorways in the same period.

Following the launch of an annual publication which reveals that the UK’s drivers pay more tax than other motorists in Europe but get one of the most inadequate road systems in return, the RAC Foundation is today urging Government to invest more of this income in the country’s infrastructure - before it grinds to a standstill.

In 2002-2003 (the last period for which statistics are available), Government spending on the rail infrastructure exceeded investment on roads - in spite of the fact that over 90% of all passenger travel is by road and only 6.5% by rail.

Two years ago, in "Motoring Towards 2050", the RAC Foundation predicted that there would be a further 50% increase in traffic by 2031 but still little progress has been made on improvements to the strategic roads network. Simply relying on congestion to control traffic growth would be economically damaging to the country, it says.

The Road Users’ Alliance, of which RAC Foundation is a member, has just published the Road Fact File 2004 reinforcing those claims. It reveals:

  • Motorists in the UK pay £42.2 billion to the Government in taxation: fuel tax £22.1 billion; Vehicle Excise Duty £4.6 billion; VAT on vehicles £6.8 billion; VAT on fuel £5.6 billion and company car tax £3.1 billion
  • Motorists pay another £75.2 billion into the economy through their purchase of vehicles, fuel and basic running costs
  • Just £6.7 billion was spent on UK roads infrastructure in 2003
  • 92% of all passenger travel is by road
  • 6.5% is by rail
  • Roads serve 92% of our travel needs
  • Britain’s major road network has increased by just 0.06 per cent (under 200 miles/316kms) in 10 years
  • The UK's motorway network ranks among the least developed in Europe (motorway network length to unit of GDP). The UK is 14th out of a European league table of 15 - only Ireland has fewer miles
  • UK car ownership falls 5% below the European average
  • Motorways account for nearly 20% of all traffic, yet represent less than one per cent of the total road length in the UK.

    Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation says: "These figures will shock the average motorist. We appear to be unfairly disadvantaged on every level in comparison to our European neighbours – we pay the highest taxes, have the most congested roads and the least investment.

    "The UK claims to be the fourth largest economy in the world - surely we can afford a decent road system to support economic growth?

    "The Chancellor has had a huge windfall from VAT on fuel. In 2003 he raised £5.6 billion. This year, with rising oil prices, that figure will probably be greater than the entire £6.7 billion that is actually spent on roads."

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