The way England’s motorways and A-roads are built and managed is set for a transformational change next month after the government announced the ‘go-live’ of the Highways England.
Highways England is a new arms-length government company that will take over running motorways and major trunk roads from the Highways Agency on 1 April 2015.
The new company will have new longer-term funding, which will mean it can plan ahead and invest in skills and equipment to speed up essential work and drive down costs to the taxpayer.
The move is part of a radical package of road reform that is expected to save the taxpayer at least £2.6 billion over the next 10 years.
Transport Minister John Hayes said:
This marks a significant way forward in how our strategic road network is delivered and managed.
These reforms will mean the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads upgrade for decades. Ensuring we have well maintained roads and motorways is essential to a modern transport system that will boost our economy, create jobs and give more choice about where we live and work whilst delivering billions in savings.
I am clear that government will set the strategy, gauge its implementation and direct necessary changes. Highways England will be answerable to Parliament, fully accountable for its work and will report to ministers.
The government’s Autumn Statement in December announced the ‘Road investment strategy’, which set out how Highways England will spend £15.2 billion on 84 new national road projects to help radically enhance connectivity.
In addition the government has announced plans to tackle longstanding problems including a new strategic corridor to the south west via the A303, including a 1.8 mile tunnel at Stonehenge, a long term commitment of around £2 billion.
The ‘Road investment strategy’ included a commitment of £4.5 billion to add an extra lane to our key motorways to boost connectivity between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Yorkshire.
Other measures include 9 major improvements along the A1 from Berwick to London, taking it to motorway standard through Yorkshire and extending the continuous dual carriageway 24 miles further north, part of £2.3 billion worth of new investment in Yorkshire and the north east.
The government’s commitment to new spending on roads amounts to a tripling of annual investment in road improvements to over £3 billion per year by 2021.
Legislation underpinning the new Highways England company was passed in the Infrastructure Act, which was given Royal Assent on February 12.
Today sees the publication of the ‘Road investment strategy’ and the licence which will govern how Highways England will operate.
The act also sets out the measures being used to look after the interests of the users of the network, which include the creation of a new road user watchdog and a highways monitor to assess the performance of the network, based within Passenger Focus and the Office of Rail Regulation respectively.
The establishment of Highways England will bring an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability to the operation of England’s motorways and A-roads. Highways England will transform the way government deals with the strategic road network, while remaining fully accountable to Parliament through ministers, who will have the power to direct the new body as they see fit.