A £6.1 billion programme of road improvements has been announced by Transport Minister Jesse Norman as part of the £23 billion already earmarked for upgrading England’s road network. The ambitious programme is designed to help road users by reducing journey times, driving down congestion and ramping up capacity on key roads.

Over the next six months, the money will help fund 55 road improvement schemes, including opening eight roads, consulting on ten and finalising plans for 29 others. Major projects include adding capacity to sections of the A1 in Northumberland and at the Colchester bypass. Improvements are also expected at Junction 19 of the M6. There will also be an upgraded link between the Port of Liverpool and the motorway, along with a ‘new strategic corridor’ to the south-west, via the controversy-dogged A303. The route for the new A19 Downhill Lane junction has also been published.

Facing the road network’s future

Unveiling the funding programme, Jesse Norman said,

“Road users across England should soon be seeing the benefits of these improvements in their daily lives, which are designed to link people better with their jobs, friends, family and local amenities, as well as connecting businesses with customers.”

“Over the next six months we expect to roll out our vital upgrade plan — taking next steps on £6.1 billion-worth of schemes and seeking to hear from local people, organisations and businesses to help shape our plans and ensure they benefit local communities.”

The £6.1 billion follows on from the government’s allocation of £1.2 billion in January, a figure that was roundly criticised by councils at the time for not being enough to improve England’s struggling road network, as local authorities struggle to clear a £12 billion backlog of road repairs. The funding commitment will also help deal with the National Audit Office’s claims that decisive action is needed to safeguard road investment projects deemed at risk.

Good news for drivers

The announcement has been well received by organisations representing private and commercial road users. Both the RAC and the AA have given the programme their official approval, with the AA’s Edmund King stating that,

“As well as increasing capacity and smoothing traffic flow, we believe that significant road safety benefits can be to be achieved especially with the A1 improvements.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, argues that it sends a clear signal that travel needs are being taken seriously by the government:

“The fear has always been that road programmes, like the morning mists, have a tendency to fade away before our eyes. This latest unveiling is therefore a particularly welcome demonstration that the promised money is not only available but is being spent on schemes that really matter.”

Bodies representing haulage and manufacturing are also optimistic about the funding programme. The Road Haulage Association’s chief executive Richard Burnett stated,

“We hope that this investment will reduce congestion, reduce journey times which in turn will improve delivery times. For road hauliers, responsible for moving 85% of the UK economy, the road network is their place of work.”

And Chris Richards, Head of Business Environment Policy at EEF, which represents British manufacturers, said that the announcement “brings reassurance that post-election, the government remains committed to the Road Investment Strategy which has begun the task of fixing England’s strategic road network.”

Scheme highlights

East

A12 Colchester bypass widen – Consultation

A5 to M1 link – Scheme opening ceremony

South East

M27 Southampton junctions (London and South East) – Consultation

M271 Redbridge roundabout – Preferred route announcement

London East

A12 M25 to Chelmsford – Consultation

North East

A19 Downhill Lane – Preferred route announcement

A1 Scotswood to North Brunton – Preferred route announcement

A1 Northumberland (Yorkshire and the North East) – Preferred route announcement

Midlands

A52 Nottingham junctions – Consultation

M42 J6 – Preferred route announcement

Yorkshire

M621 J1-7 improvements – Consultation

A1 Leeming to Barton – Scheme opening

North West

M6 Junction 19 improvements – Preferred route announcement

M56 J11a – Preferred route announcement

A585 Windy Harbour – Preferred route announcement

South West

A358 Taunton-Southfields – Preferred route announcement

A30 Chiverton to Carland Cross – Preferred route announcement

A303 Sparkford to Ilchester – Preferred route announcement

The PetrolPrices view

The announcement is great news, particularly given the austerity restrictions that have been put in place on public spending. However, does the government’s new plan for road improvements go far enough? The Chancellor says that we can only leave austerity behind us through strong fiscal policies, a good Brexit deal and higher productivity. Investing in our road and rail infrastructure as heavily as the US intends to invest in its infrastructure would contribute towards greater productivity figures and ultimately a stronger economy. We can only hope that further infrastructure funding will be announced in the autumn budget.

 

Do you believe £6.1 billion is enough to whip England’s road network into shape? Or is the funding announced by the government too little, too late? Let us know your opinions below.

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