TRAFFIC jams have been made worse on dozens of major roads by a project designed to tackle bottlenecks, Highways England has admitted.
And despite not improving the congestion situation, the scheme has cost a whopping £317million.
Highways England published figures in a recent report after evaluating the first-year impact of nearly half of 119 schemes designed to ease congestion and improve safety on England’s motorways and major A roads.
The Government-owned company revealed the pinch point programme saw small improvements to rush hour journeys, but these were outweighed by hefty delays at other times of the day.
Overall, journey times proved longer than before the money was injected to try to reduce traffic build up.
The company believes the increased delays were largely caused by the introduction of traffic lights on motorways, which were used at 44 per cent of the congested areas.
The RAC described the findings as “very disappointing”.
Nearly half of the schemes with an objective to cut journey times failed to achieve that goal.
The report concluded that it must consider the impact of projects “across all 168 hours of the week, not just the 10-30 peak hours”.
The pinch point programme was established in 2011 to relieve congestion, stimulate growth in local economies and improve safety.
Small-scale projects generally costing up to £10million were chosen, with work often involving junction modifications, adding traffic lights, widening slip roads and new signage.
The programme was largely delivered by Highways England’s predecessor, the Highways Agency, and was completed by March 2016.
Recent Department for Transport figures show motorists suffered a 3.9 per cent increase in delays on major roads last year.
The data suggests driving along a 10-mile section of road with a 60mph limit typically took 11 minutes and 34 seconds compared with 10 minutes in free flow conditions.
GRIDLOCKED Traffic jams cost drivers in Britain’s biggest cities more than £1,600 EACH last year
Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, told the Press Association: “It’s very disappointing that Highways England’s work to tackle pinch points on its road network has not been as successful as had been hoped.
“While congestion has been reduced at peak times of the day, unfortunately many schemes have seen increased traffic at off-peak periods, mostly due to traffic lights being introduced.
“Luckily, it seems as though there are some simple steps that can be taken to improve the worst of these new off-peak traffic flow issues, such as changing signals to work part-time instead of full-time.
“It is also important to realise that this work was not just about reducing congestion and that many schemes have seen small reductions in the number of road casualties.”
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A spokesman for Highways England said: “This report shows that overall, these schemes … were successful at tackling congestion at the busiest times and improving safety.
“This useful insight is helping us develop improved appraisal methods for small-scale schemes, which in turn help us deliver improved benefits to people using our motorways and major A roads.
“Meanwhile, we are considering a range of options to improve journeys by using traffic signals which respond to traffic flows.”