British Road Federation

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The British Road Federation was a key roads lobbyist. It appears to have ceased to exist in 2001 - certainly its website ceased to function then.[1]

The roads lobby has always conjured up images of dark, mysterious characters in suits who are unimaginably powerful. Certainly in the early 1990s the lobby looked undefeatable, with roads being built left, right and centre. However the cuts to the road programme in 1994-97 make one wonder whether the lobby was ever powerful at all.

What remains of the trunk road programme is a few economically strategic infrastructure links, the lobbying for which largely occurred at the European level.

At the national level most road lobbyists go through is the British Roads Federation (BRF), the most powerful group. It doesn't retain any MPs, nor make any political donations; however it is politically well-connected. Chief exec Richard Diment formerly spent 8 years in Conservative Central Office, and press officer Andrew Pharoah several years at Labour Party HQ [2]. The BRF meets with Ministers and their Shadows, participates in all-party groups and party conferences and briefs MPs, MEPs, councillors and committees. It claims responsibility for the motorway network developed in the '60s, '70s and '80s [3].

The BRF is rather unsophisticated in its aims, which are more to increase road building, maintenance and "improvement" as a whole (including bypasses and local roads) than to prioritise economically strategic infrastructure. Both the BRF itself and its executive committees are made up mainly of companies and trade associations with a fairly direct interest in roads: construction, engineering, materials, car manufacturing, transport, haulage and courier, 4 oil companies (BP, Mobil, Shell, Total), AA, RAC, National Car Parks, Forte etc. Freight users (such as Weetabix, Tate & Lyle, Bulmer, National Farmers Union) are less influential. The BRF has a powerful network of local groups, including Yorkshire Roads Group, Transport Action Scotland and East Anglia Roads to Prosperity.

However, the UK government in the 1990s has little interest in maintaining spending in order to support the construction industry.

What motivated the roads programme was not favour for the construction industries but economic theory; the government already believed in the importance of free trade, and recognised the consequent requirement for infrastructure; it also recognised the economic significance of cars and oil. Like most lobbies, the roads lobby only guides rather than directs policy. But now the government even admits that road building is not a cost-effective means of dealing with traffic problems and with stronger public opposition to road building even the economic "benefits" of road building are often seen as less politically valuable than spending cuts.


British Roads Federation, Pillar House, 194-202 Old Kent Road, London SE1 5TG tel. 0171 703 9769 fax 0171 701 0029

BRF website circa March 2001 (from the Internet Archive)




  1. ^ See the Internet Archive holdings,*/, Accessed July 2007.
  2. ^ from the Evening Standard, 3/10/94 see online article at
  3. ^ AA Magazine, Issue 11