After the government revealed details of its £15bn Road Investment Strategy earlier this week, the industry has had its say.
Details of the first ever Road Investment Strategy show that the government is investing in more than 100 new road schemes over this parliament and next, 84 of which are brand new, including the dualling of the A303, A1, A27 and the A47.
Here’s what the associations, contractors and consultants had to say:
Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA), said: “The investment commitment to update and improve our motorways and trunk roads is welcomed and the Investment Strategy certainly contains attention grabbing headlines of over 100 new road schemes to be built over this parliament and the next. However, the Strategy also underlines the historic lack of investment that has resulted in traffic congestion and road surface deterioration.
“The funding for resurfacing and maintenance of the SRN is welcomed but what of the local road network? Despite the best efforts of local highway authorities struggling with limited budgets, the local road network continues to deteriorate. Some £12 billion is essential to bring the neglected local road network up to standard. There is little point in trumpeting investment in the strategic road network if the local roads used to reach and connect the motorways and trunk roads continue to be plagued with potholes.”
Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE) president John Nightingale said: “Ongoing road maintenance must be seen as an essential part of the lifecycle of transport infrastructure so that it can be recognised and resourced appropriately. It is also important that the government acknowledges that local roads are a vital part of UK’s road network and must be given due consideration within this strategic framework.
“The IHE is conscious that this long-term programme needs stable funding so the entire supply chain can start implementing the plan effectively. In the past, investment plans have been short-sighted and fallen short of delivering adequate investment to upgrade and maintain the UK’s strategic road network. We call on the government to introduce its Infrastructure Bill next spring so that the highways sector as a whole knows how much funding is available, where it will be invested and what is to be expected.”
Geoff Allister, executive director of the Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA), said: “A well maintained road network is critical to the economic and social development of our communities. HTMA believes that road maintenance activities should be based on a long-term, asset management approach and strongly supports the principle of incentivising local authorities to deliver these maintenance services more efficiently. Our members have a track record of successful delivery and by working collaboratively with our clients, we will ensure that the taxpayer gets excellent value for money from the available maintenance funding.”
The chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT), Sue Percy, said: “CIHT welcome the publication of this strategy that details 100 road schemes across England. Although this is not new investment, the detail of the schemes helps to provide industry with some of the certainty that it needs.
“We believe that government should recognise that the success of an improved strategic road network in meeting customer needs cannot be met without the local network being considered as part of a holistic solution. Certainty of investment over a sustained period will allow a more resilient network to be developed. This would allow the reformed Highways Agency and its supply chain to meet the potential challenges of climate change (and other factors) by taking a longer-term view of the needs of the network.”
Cllr Peter Box, transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: “For many areas, this £15 billion roads investment for our motorways and main trunk roads is long overdue and will help unlock growth. The government must now match this ambition and funding certainty for the other 98% which make up our local roads.
“Given that every journey starts and ends on local roads, it is vital that the new strategic highways company also engages fully with councils and businesses to put them at the heart of its planning decisions over the entire road network.
“It is also time to stop treating our strategic road network in isolation. Increasing motorway lanes and improving A-roads alone won’t ease congestion but will only speed up cars between growing delays and traffic jams on local roads. With the government predicting a 43% increase in local traffic of more than 40% by 2040, this will only get worse.
“It would now take councils more than a decade and £12 billion to bring our roads up to scratch. That is why we are calling for the government to inject a further £1 billion a year into local roads maintenance by investing just two pence per litre of existing fuel duty.”
Brian Fitzpatrick, head of highways at consultancy firm EC Harris, notes: “This pledge is welcome news. Historically, similar programmes have been cancelled due to political inactivity but this announcement seems to show that the scale of behind-the-scenes activity by the government has been genuine. The challenge will be to ensure that the £15bn can be delivered efficiently and effectively for the driving public. The development and timing of these schemes is critical, and the impact of schemes on drivers needs to be managed sensitively.
“The successful transformation of the Highways Agency into a Government Owned Company (GoCo), will be critical to the success of the plan. The Highways Agency as it stands will become a smarter, thinner organisation with strategic responsibility for operations, which will in turn mean a transfer of innovation (and risk) to private operators in the supply chain. As is the case elsewhere in Europe, this will lead to new ways of owning, operating and maintaining the roads – in 10 years time the UK’s road network won’t be so recognisable.”
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. Delivering both in an integrated way is vital to the long-term efficiency and sustainability of our roads, and to supporting the UK’s ongoing economic recovery. 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.”
Nick Baveystock, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) director general, commented: “Government committed to developing and implementing an investment strategy for roads, and clearly some significant progress has been made, with many UK regions set to benefit from new projects – providing the Infrastructure Bill passes through Parliament, and ultimately providing the schemes gain cross party support and survive a General Election.
“It is important however, that a strategy for upgrading our roads is not developed in isolation from plans for the rest of the transport network, including major projects like HS2. Strategies must be integrated, evidence-based and long-term if we are to deliver transport infrastructure that supports growth and is resilient for the future.”
Malcolm Bingham, the Freight Transport Association’s head of road network management policy, said: “FTA believes that this investment announcement has significant benefits for the freight industry in setting improvements to journey reliability. The freight and logistics industry relies upon reliable road infrastructure to ensure that products are move efficiently and at reasonable cost. Our challenge now is to make sure that these announced schemes are taken forward and the work that will be inevitable during construction is done with the minimum of disruption.”
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “The strategic road network is the most business critical infrastructure network for manufacturers and this announcement is a significant step toward filling in the gaps to create a network that better supports growth. This is, however, just a medium term catch up and we can’t afford to allow this level of drift in maintaining and upgrading our road network in the future.
“Key to all of this will be turning the Highways Agency into a strategic highways company with the freedoms required to end the stop-start investment cycle which has led to the current poor quality of the network. The government should maintain its focus on delivering the Infrastructure Bill to secure this.”
John Cridland, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director-general, said: “This five-year strategy marks a significant milestone in our journey towards the delivery of much-needed upgrades to our existing road network, the arteries of our economy.
“I’ve been calling for a tunnel underneath Stonehenge as part of wider upgrades along the A303, a lifeline for businesses in the South West, so I am glad to see it getting the green light. It is essential now that we see a commitment from all sides to take this programme forward in the coming Parliament, shifting our focus towards delivery.
“Our recent infrastructure survey showed how important infrastructure is to UK businesses, but with 57% fearing transport links could worsen in the next five years, now is the time for action.”