It is an honour to speak to you this evening.
And it’s great to see so many deserving nominees.
You might think that, sometimes, the public forgets how important your work is.
But I can tell you: even before the Prime Minister asked me to be the Roads Minister, my postbag contained more letters about roads than about anything else.
Any MP will tell you the same.
Importance of highways industry
Because your work is the foundation of national prosperity.
It allows people and products to get across the country.
It connects towns and cities and families and friends.
When our roads aren’t working, Britain can’t work.
So the country is fortunate that among the men and women who maintain our road network are some of the most hard-working, skilled, and, frankly, most important professionals in the country.
Whether you are out painting the road markings that keep drivers on course; working to make the case for local road investment; working to design new road systems for the ever-increasing number of cars on our roads; or working on any other of the thousands of jobs required for road construction and maintenance, right here in this room tonight, we have the best of the very best.
We are spending more on roads
There has never been a better time to work in our highways industry.
For years, the industry gave successive governments a clear message.
You said: Not enough money is being spent on Britain’s roads.
Driver numbers are up.
And with the money that’s being spent, the quality of the network is going down.
Successive governments heard that message, but they were not always listening.
The result was that by 2010, the World Economic Forum ranked Britain’s roads 35th in the world for quality.
That’s not surprising when you consider that in the last 25 years, the French ordered and built more than two and a half thousand miles of new motorway.
While we built just 300 miles.
So that is why I am glad to say today: at last you have a government that has been listening.
We agree with you that we need to spend more on our roads.
So that is exactly what we are doing.
We are spending over £2 billion on local schemes.
£6 billion to maintain the local network.
And an unprecedented £15 billion on our strategic network.
We will get 1,300 miles of new motorway lanes.
New surfaces for 80% of our most important existing roads.
Better links to our airports and our sea ports.
In total, over 100 major schemes, including widening key links such as the A1 north of Newcastle, and the A303 to the South West, and a new, faster route on the A14 from Cambridge.
On the local network we are funding schemes such as the new Mersey Gateway Bridge, and new bypasses around Lancaster, Hastings, and the south of Manchester
Altogether, it’s by far the biggest investment in our roads for a generation.
And it means that the highways industry is a thriving growth industry.
For you, it means new opportunities.
And thousands of new jobs.
But I can’t finish without mentioning that, by a happy coincidence, at midnight tonight we are launching a new, free Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme online asset management training system.
It will help you develop some of the skills you need to maintain our nation’s highways.
So do take a look at it.
But of course, and this is the real point - without you, our road-building revolution will not happen.
If this country is to continue to prosper, and if businesses are to continue to move their goods, we need your talent, and your dedication.
Looking at the nominations tonight, there’s no shortage of that in this room.
This government is backing you all the way.
So enjoy this evening.
You’ve earnt it.
You deserve it.
And there’s a lot to celebrate.