The development of the main road system in Britain from the appearance of motor vehicles through the pre-motorway period and over the last half century is outlined. The changing patterns of responsibility for planning and managing the main road network are described, along with changes in political attitudes to road construction. Britain’s current motorway network is compared with those of other European countries and the challenges of providing a fit-for-purpose national road network spelled out. Finally, it is concluded that a combination of more efficient pricing of road use, along with a programme of new and expanded motorways and trunk roads, should be a vital and central component of national transport policy.

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