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By Peter Headicar

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This explains the long-standing campaigns for dual carriageway improvements to serve remoter, lightly populated areas – for example the A11 to Norwich, the A30 through Cornwall or the A1 north of Newcastle. Even within particular cities and sub-regions the configuration of the main road network and the standard of its component sections often leaves much to be desired even after a century of purposeful investment. This is partly because of the inevitable ‘lumpiness’ of highway schemes and the fact that the network remains in a state of continuing improvement.

Over time the significance of this factor is lessening as more people have learnt to drive when they were young and these cohorts are working their way through the population. Inability to drive remains higher amongst women in all age cohorts although amongst adults in their twenties today there is now only a 12-point difference between men and women. Over the last ten years however there has been a surprising reversal in the trend towards greater licence-holding amongst young people. The proportion of 17–20 year olds with a licence has fallen from 43% to 34%.

5 +44% distance categories (Potter 1996). Significantly these are distances which are typical of journeys to, around or between towns rather than within them. The 10–25 mile band is also the one which has the highest proportion by car (85%). This link between transport and economic development can be viewed as operating negatively as well as positively. Capacity limits on transport networks and worsening congestion are commonly held to inhibit economic growth and are thus used as an argument for greater investment to rectify an ‘infrastructure deficit’.

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