In the May 2008 Issue of Property Investor News
UK Roads Review
Its almost certainly not an anniversary youve got marked in your diary. But on the 5th December this year, Britains oldest motorway, the M6 Preston Bypass, will celebrate its fiftieth birthday. It didnt go very far back then - just from one side of town to the other. But it signalled one thing: the age of fast and easy (hard to believe if youve travelled the M6 recently) road transport had arrived in Britain.
Over the next couple of decades, motorway development continued apace: It seems unthinkable in todays age of drawn out planning and environmental awareness, but the original M1 between St. Albans and Rugby, which opened in 1959, was built in a little over three years. With one cut of a ribbon, places that were previously a day away could be reached within an hour or so.
Most commentators agree that the enhanced accessibility brought by new roads stimulates property markets to a greater or lesser extent. This can be for a number of reasons: New roads can, of course, help attract industries to places that were previously inaccessible - and by providing jobs boost the local residential property market. They also make certain locations more commutable, bringing commuter-belt residential prices to rural locations. (The M1 and M40, for example, opened up large tracts of Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire to commuters.) They also make more places accessible for leisure use. Another aspect to consider is that areas where traffic exceeds local road capacity can become unattractive to industry or for commuting.
Most people who use our roads will, of course, have noticed that road development has become less and less ambitious since 1959 and in some areas is non-existent. In 1989 the then government launched the Roads to Prosperity programme - a plan to spend Â£23bn on 500 major new projects. This was dropped in 1998, leaving a few stranded sections of new motorway, and replaced by a "Targeted Programme of Improvements" which contained just 37!
As well as advocating road pricing the 2006 government-commissioned Transport Study by Sir Rod Eddington claimed about 300-500 miles of extra roads are needed in Britain. However, current and upcoming road schemes are unlikely to add anything like this. In these cost and environment conscious times, even a hard shoulder running scheme or HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane is being touted as a major road investment.
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