Chancellor Sajid Javid, has announced a £25.3bn strategic roads investment between 2020-25. The news prompted a cautious industry welcome, although the figure still falls short of the £29bn that was initially quoted for the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS).
The £25.3bn will be invested in the strategic road network between 2020 and 2025. The second Road Investment Strategy (RIS), due to be announced later this year, will set out what this funding will deliver. Users of the A66 across the Pennines, A46 at Newark, M60 Simister Island interchange and A12 in Essex will be among those to benefit from this funding.
Industry figures have cautiously welcomed the chancellor’s announcement, but pointed out that £25.3bn still falls some way short of the £29bn which was initially quoted for the next RIS.
Dave Beddell, AECOM’s European highways managing director and chair of ACE’s roads sector interest group, said: “It is important to recognise that Sajid Javid did not announce Road Investment Strategy 2, what he said was that a full multi-detailed spending review will take place in 2020. A figure of £29bn was quoted for the next RIS which is some way north of the £25.3bn draft submission Highways England made to DfT.
“We welcome the ongoing commitment to road infrastructure and the recognition of the integral role this has in underpinning a sustainable and prosperous economy. We also acknowledge the government proposals to take measures which will provide the UK with a robust platform to build strong new relationships with trade partners within the EU and beyond any potential UK exit from the European Union. However, industry needs greater transparency from government on detailed proposals around the critical role that transport infrastructure will have in a post-Brexit world.”
The chancellor also announced that an additional first wave of £100m funding will eventually enable 18 new road schemes to move on to the next stage of development. Initially though, the four schemes which have been approved for construction include the Preston western distributor scheme, which will provide a new dual carriageway to reduce congestion in the city, and the 3.5km Stubbington bypass.
The four schemes given funding to proceed to construction are:
- £31m for the Preston western distributor scheme: a new dual carriageway link between the M55 and the A583 is designed to improve travel between the enterprise zone at Warton and the Springfields nuclear facility at Salwick, as well as reduce congestion in Preston and directly lead to the creation of 3,575 houses and the creation of over 500 jobs. Through the Lancashire County Council funded link road, a further 1,745 houses will also be built;
- £25.5m for the Stubbington bypass: a new 3.5km single carriageway road will improve the environment in the village with the removal of traffic as well as improve access to development sites in Gosport;
- £22.5m for the White Hart junction: improving the intersection between the A419 and A420 to the east of Swindon which will not only benefit existing users of the junction but also help unlock development of the New Eastern Villages site which includes over 8,650 dwellings and 40 ha of employment land. By itself, the White Hart junction scheme will unlock the development of 799 dwellings;
- £22.9m for the Wichelstowe southern access scheme: construction of an access road to the Wichelstowe development site under the M4 motorway which will unlock an additional 2,500 residential units on top of the currently permitted 2000 units.
Beddell added: “The commitment to deliver long-standing regional network improvements is welcomed but we seek firm commitment from government around the keynote infrastructure programmes needed to future proof the strategic road network (SRN) such as Lower Thames Crossing and A303 which provide improved regional connectivity and economic development potential.
“We welcome the continued trend of longer-term investment planning that RIS2 will bring to the SRN and acknowledge the greater certainty this brings to industry. However, government must recognise the interdependent nature of road travel and provide non-strategic highway authorities with a similar level of autonomy to ensure network needs are considered and developed in a holistic manner.”
Seven other schemes will be awarded funding to develop their business cases. These include the A140 Long Stratton Bypass, which will divert traffic away from busier routes around Norwich, helping reduce traffic through local routes and the A511 growth corridor which will see a series of improvements to improve access to jobs and services in Leicestershire.
A further seven schemes have been given approval to proceed and to apply for funding at a later stage, but Beddell said: “As regional devolution provides greater autonomy for local authorities to make investment decisions which underpin local economic prosperity and growth, we ask that the government clarifies its position on the introduction of a major roads network which DfT consulted industry on in December 2018.
“We acknowledge the government’s proposals to place digital transformation at the heart of its industrial strategy and feel that this has significant potential to foster innovations in all aspects of network design, construction, operation and maintenance. A designated Road Innovation Fund would provide government and industry with a mechanism to collaborate and bring together the skills and expertise which will unlock this potential,” said Beddell.