‘Underinvestment is over’: Government reveal huge £28BILLION road reform plans

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 10:09
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PLANS: £28bn road reform details released

Reforms tackling decades of road underinvestment are to be backed by legislation, the government have announced.

Under huge £28billion plans, the Highways Agency will become a publically-owned company, while £12billion will be put aside for road maintenance and resurfacing.

An additional £500million will be devoted to funding electric vehicles, in plans which could save the taxpayer up to £600million.

Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary, said: “Our major roads are vital to the prosperity of our nation, connecting people to jobs and businesses to markets.

“They carry a third of all traffic and two-thirds of all freight traffic but in recent decades we have failed to invest properly in them.

“That underinvestment has seen us fall behind many of our economic competitors.

“Since 1990, France has built more motorway miles than exist on our entire network, while Canada, Japan and Australia all spend four times more on their roads than we do.

“Today’s changes will bring an end to the short-term thinking that has blighted investment in England’s roads so that we can deliver the infrastructure our economy needs.

“Backed by the government’s £28billion commitment, they will give us a road network fit for the 21st century and beyond.”

The national network of motorways and trunk roads will get extra lanes, smoother, quieter surfaces, improved junctions and new sections in key areas.

Fully-funded in June’s spending review, the £28billion investment – which includes a trebling of funding for motorways and major A-roads – leads to the biggest-ever upgrade of the existing network.

The focus will be on cutting congestion and minimising the environmental impact of roads, including the extra £500million to make Britain a world leader in electric vehicle technology.

‘Action for Roads’, the government’s new command paper, also sees the Highways Agency become a publicly-owned company with six year funding certainty for capital projects and maintenance.

A Department for Transport spokesperson added: “This funding and reform will be underpinned by legislation so future governments cannot walk away from these commitments.

“It will give the construction and maintenance industry the confidence they need to recruit and train skilled workers to deliver this increase in transport projects over the coming years.”

The Government’s reform and funding package includes the following upgrades to UK roads:

  • 221 extra lane miles of ‘Managed Motorways’, linking existing stretches between the North West, Birmingham and London to create a new Managed Motorway Corridor.
  • 52 major projects funded with funding available for further enhancements to be identified through a comprehensive review of the network’s performance.
  • Schemes to improve important freight routes, like the A14 and four lane capacity on the M4 from London to Reading.
  • £12billion for road maintenance over the course of the next parliament with £6billion of this for maintenance and resurfacing 80% of our motorways and major A-roads by 2020.
  • The remaining £6billion will be spent on tackling the backlog of maintenance and reduce potholes on local roads which make up the rest of the country’s road network.
  • Feasibility studies to solve problems at the most notorious hotspots on the road network – the A303 to the South West, the A1 North of Newcastle, the A1 Newcastle to Gateshead, trans-Pennine routes between Manchester and Sheffield and the A27 on the South coast.
  • Faster delivery – work is already underway to look at how schemes can be planned and delivered more quickly so that the benefits of these new schemes can be felt as soon as possible.

The Government will introduce a legal framework to guarantee investment through a roads investment strategy.

It will set out plans and performance criteria for the next five years of building and maintenance as well as the next ten years of project development.

The Department for Transport intends to consult on these proposals in autumn 2013.

Gerry Keaney, Chief Executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), said he welcomed the extra funding for roads and electric vehicles.

“UK road users pay £47billion in motoring taxes each year and will welcome the fact that more of this money will be used to make their journeys safer, less congested and with a reduced impact on the environment,” he said.

“The BVRLA has consistently called for the Highways Agency to be made a publically owned, non-political body that can provide a long-term continuity of investment for motorists.

“As the trade body representing the business motorist  we are keen to work with the Department for Transport in developing a robust ‘Motorists Champion’ that can speak for the needs of consumers and at-work road users.

“We also look forward to helping Office for Low Emission Vehicles allocate this extra £500million for electric vehicles.

“The current range of plug-in incentives have had a disappointing impact on the market for ultra-low carbon vehicles.

“We believe that some of this new £500million should be spent on longer-term, in-life incentives  such as VED-exemption, subsidised charging points and free parking, which would support current owners of electric cars and vans and stimulate demand for used plug-in vehicles.”

Meanwhile, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) have agreed the proposal within the Roads Command Paper offers real opportunities for freight operators.

The Association also stated that there was a definite need for a ‘Champion’ of roads, who considers the needs of freight and not just those of motorists.

Karen Dee, Director of Policy at the FTA, said: “FTA welcomes the proposals put forward in the Roads Command Paper and believes that these will offer good opportunities to deliver a system which means greater accountability for the services provided on our roads, and additionally it should supply greater certainty of funding.

“Moving forward it is vital to have a method in place which enables the industry to monitor the new company in its meeting performance – in order to create confidence.

“FTA also recognises that the proposals could deliver enormous benefits to our members and that there is a definite need for a ‘Champion’ for road users who will consider the needs of freight and not just those of the motorist.”

The Road Haulage Association also welcomed the government’s commitment to work with them and others.

Jack Semple, Director of Policy at the RHA, said: “For the UK to be truly open for business, it must be better served by its road network, despite the challenge of an increasing population and forecast traffic growth.

“We face massive challenges and we have huge opportunities for improvement through actions at national and local level.

“It is essential that the UK road haulage industry makes its voice heard.”

Image courtesy of Highways Agency, with thanks.

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