The English road network will grow by an additional 900 miles of new lanes in what the government says is the biggest road investment programme since the 1970s.
The £24 billion investment will triple investment in motorways and major A-roads, creating a third more roads capacity than was built in the past decade. £6 billion of the total funds will be spend on resurfacing 3000 miles of the existing strategic road network too.
Roads minister John Haynes said in a briefing that the government has committed to 60 new road schemes, which will create 962 miles of new road. Between 2001-2010, 574 new miles of road were created, he said.
The new road schemes will tackle bottlenecks in the current network. Six feasibility studies are currently in progress, investigating notorious hotspots. Solutions to some of these, which include the A303 in the south east and the A47 in the east, could be revealed in the 2014 Autumn Statement, he added.
“This government will oversee more work, more safety, and more improvements on our roads. This will benefit hard-working people and businesses, help ease congestion and create a road network fit for the 21st century and beyond.”
Addressing environmental concerns
The construction of so many miles of new roads will undoubtedly worry environmental groups, but Haynes said ecological concerns are being taken into account. “We’re doing this with great care for our environment”.
Expanding existing roads, rather than building all-new ones, is the key here. “This extra capacity will be achieved mainly by the use of smart motorways and selective widening to minimise the environmental impact.”
Better utilisation of expanded roads will coincide with a review of all roads in England, as part of the Highways Agency route strategies project. This should identify key road networks of the future and also potentially downgrade some roads currently deemed strategic today.
The Highways Agency itself will also help offset some of the cash invested in a tripling of the English roads budget, as the body is being nationalised. This process will generate £2.6 billion in savings over the next decade, said Haynes.
“The new company, of which the Transport Secretary is the single shareholder, will use stable, locked-in funding to boost efficiency with the supply chain and will be more accountable to Parliament and road users.