By Will Roberts
Britain needs investment in its ageing road system in order to deal with the increased amount of traffic, MPs have heard.
Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton told MPs on the House of Commons Transport Committee that pressure is growing on the road network in this "very cramped and busy island".
He said the network has not changed much over the past two decades, despite the number of cars on the roads rocketing.
Dalton added that motorways and major A roads are vital for everyday business and have an effect on economic prosperity.
'Road network same size as 20 years ago'
He said: "The network remains at the same shape and size it was 20-odd years ago. Pressure on it is growing again."
He added that his agency could work better with local councils to improve communication.
"There are a lot of local authorities," he said. "I run a lean business. I don't think we offer a full active dialogue with all local authorities.
"Some of them will agree that we don't engage enough. I know some are quite happy. We need the dialogue with local authorities, but it varies."
Transport infrastructure before expansion needed
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill told MPs that there had been a lot of "stop-go" policies in transport infrastructure over the years, with not enough invested.
He said the transport network still allowed people to get around the country and added that his department now had a much improved budget with which to carry out major work.
He said he looked to "I before E", with infrastructure being put in place before expansion.
He added: "I think that particularly in south east England expansion has ripped ahead without the infrastructure catching up."
M6 toll road 'a disaster'
The committee also received evidence from the trade union side of the Highways Agency, which said that the M6 Toll road in the West Midlands had "proved a disaster both as an investment and as a relief road" since it opened 11 years ago.
Dalton said that 35,000 vehicles a day use the toll road while 100,000 are using the main M6 route.
"We are spending a lot of money to upgrade the old route when, on the face of it, we should be getting more traffic on the toll road," he told MPs.
It would have been better to introduce a plan involving a private finance initiative scheme for the toll road, he said.