Over 100 new road schemes covering more than 1,300 lane miles will be funded as part of the £15bn Road Investment Strategy announced today by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
Designed to boost the UK’s overloaded road network, ease congestion and improve connectivity between the UK’s major cities, the investment will represent a three-fold increase in spending on road infrastructure over the next decade.
“Today I am setting out the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads programme for decades,” said McLoughlin.
“It will dramatically improve our road network and unlock Britain’s economic potential. Roads are key to our nation’s prosperity. For too long they have suffered from under-investment."
In addition to increasing capacity by building or expanding roads, the investment will also focus on deploying smart technology to manage traffic more efficiently along some of the busiest routes in Great Britain. Overall £1.5bn will be spent on new smart highways including the entire length of the M62 from Manchester to Leeds plus additional improvements to routes between London, Birmingham and Yorkshire.
“We welcome the government’s announcement of investment in road infrastructure in particular extending the UK’s smart motorways network,” said Sharon Kindleysides, an intelligent transport systems expert at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
“Using ITS technology to expand the use of hard shoulder and all-lane running is an innovate approach to increasing road capacity and keeping the traffic flowing in a cost-effective and low-environmental-impact way without the need for building new roads."
Smart technology, using responsive speed limits according to the traffic situation, will allow further expansion of the capacity of busy routes, thus making journeys safer and more reliable.
A further £300m of the record-breaking investment will go towards an environmental fund for reducing carbon and noise emissions. The plan foresees the number of people severely affected by extreme noise along the UK’s highways and busy roads should drop by 250,000 as a result of the measures.
This fund will also create new charge points for low-emission vehicles every 20 miles across the road network, as well as enhance the landscape, protect sites of cultural or historic significance, and reduce the impact of the improvements on wildlife.
A £2bn investment into the A303 and A358 will focus on expansion of the two routes, turning them into dual carriageways all the way from London to the south-west. The investment will include building a 1.8-mile dual carriageway tunnel under Stonehenge.
Further funding will go towards dualling of the A1 all the way from London to Ellingham, improving links to the Port of Liverpool; improvements to the A25 in the south-east; and upgrading the east-west connection to Norfolk by dualling sections of the A47 and improving its connections to the A1 and A11.
“World-class infrastructure is vital if we are to build a stronger economy, but it matters in other ways too,” said chair of the Cabinet Infrastructure Committee and chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.
“It invigorates communities and gives people more opportunities to get on in life. For decades our roads have suffered from under investment, so I’m particularly delighted to be able to announce this expansive range of new road schemes today.”
As well as increasing capacity and transforming the busiest sections of the network, the government is transforming the Highways Agency into a government-owned company; this will mean funding can be allocated on a longer-term basis, saving the taxpayer at least £2.6bn over the next ten years.
The AA welcomed the plans, saying it hoped this would mark an end to "the stop-start mess experienced over the last few decades".
The CBI said the roads strategy marked "a significant milestone in our journey towards the delivery of much-needed upgrades to our existing road network, the arteries of our economy".
However, the Campaign for Better Transport disagreed that the project will deliver long-lasting benefits: "The plan will prove a counter-productive waste of money. There is no evidence that building new roads creates jobs or benefits the economy and plenty of evidence that it creates new traffic that just fills up the roads again."
Green Party local transport spokeswoman Caroline Russell said: "The government plans are both short-sighted and retrograde.
"If you build roads you get more traffic. The government should be investing in our public transport infrastructure and building convenient networks of cycling and walking routes rather than creating more traffic jams."