A £15 billion (€18.92 billion) plan which would triple levels of spending by the end of the decade to increase the capacity and condition of England’s roads, has been announced to Parliament in London.

The government said it was investing in more than 100 road schemes over this parliament and next, 84 of which were said to be brand new.

Nearly 2,100 new lane km will be added by schemes being delivered over the next parliament on motorways and trunk roads.

The plans are published in the first ever Road Investment Strategy. They include £1.5 billion (€1.89 billion) of investment to add an extra lane onto key motorways to turn them into smart motorways, which the government said would boost connectivity between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Yorkshire.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said, “Spending during the next parliament on England’s roads network will be boosted further by maintenance funding worth more than £10 billion (€12.61 billion) across the local and national road network.”

New projects will include a commitment of £2 billion (€2.52 billion) to make the entire A303 and A358 to the south west of England dual carriageway, including a tunnel at the Stonehenge prehistoric monument.

Well-maintained

Paul Fleetham, managing director of Lafarge Tarmac Contracting, said, “Big ticket projects and major infrastructure spending initiatives must be underpinned by well-maintained local roads, which account for 98% of the UK’s highways network.

“While the government undoubtedly faces tough spending decisions, a piecemeal and stop-start funding cycle must be replaced with a strategic approach to proactively maintaining and improving our vital road assets.”

Simon Dixon, transport partner at business advisory firm Deloitte, said, “The funding outlined will help to provide security and confidence among those looking to invest in the UK road network.

“The extra investment and long-term certainty of funding will also enable the Highways Agency to put together cost-effective programmes, which drive down costs.”

He said a wider debate about the role of road charging in adding to government funding would be needed.

“At the moment the only source of funding for road building is what the government provides, whereas other regulated utilities generate income from their customers,” he said.

Scepticism

With an election due in the UK during the first half of next year, there was a note of scepticism from Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), who said, “RICS data shows overall construction workloads now stand at 46%, but infrastructure is the weak link in the chain, lagging behind at 27%.

“To create confidence and clarity, we have called for an independent Infrastructure Commission to ensure projects such as road improvements are not at risk from cancellation due to the five-year political cycle and changes of government.”

He said, “It is vital these plans win cross-party agreement, are prioritised, and are set underway as soon as possible.”

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