New plans to reform strategic road network

Published on Thursday, 24 May 2012 11:26
Posted by Matthew Abbott

The Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, has set out the first steps in an ambitious programme for reforming the strategic road network. This programme aims to increase the quality and efficiency of the national network, offering a better service to motorists and business users.

Central to the plan will be a 20 year strategy for the national road network and new challenging performance targets for the Highways Agency to deliver against.

Views of all users, whether motorist or business, will be central to developing both the performance specification and the strategy - which will be published for consultation towards the end of this year.

Justine Greening’s programme is in response to Alan Cook's independent review published in November last year into how motorways and major A-roads are operated, maintained and enhanced.

The Transport Secretary has also today published the terms of reference for a feasibility study to look at innovative ways of attracting private sector involvement in the road network. The study was commissioned by the Prime Minister in March and is intended to increase efficiencies and make the money that the motorist already pays go further.

Justine Greening said:

“Our motorways and major A roads are the backbone of Britain, getting people to and from work, powering the economy and keeping families connected. It is vital that we start taking positive steps now to improve how we operate, maintain and enhance our major roads.

"My goal is to transform the Highways Agency in to a best in class organisation. That's why I have agreed to many of the actions Alan Cook recommends. This paves the way for a more efficient, business like and commercially focussed operator, which crucially does much more to listen and respond to the needs of road users.

“Together with the terms of reference for the feasibility study, this constitutes an ambitious integrated programme for reforming the road network in both the short and long term."

In her response to Cook the Transport Secretary also pledged:

  • A much smarter approach to planning through the production of route based strategies. These documents will identify want needs to be delivered on key routes, including any improvements, to achieve the outcomes set in the performance specification. They will support a much greater local and regional stakeholder involvement in planning for the network and help to inform our investment decisions for the next spending review.
  • To work closely with the Highways Agency and HM Treasury to consider how greater funding certainty and flexibility can be introduced for the strategic road network. 

This programme of immediate work will start to address challenges set in the Cook review, bringing improvements in the short to medium term. These reforms are also an essential stepping stone to any more radical reforms we may introduce following the feasibility study being undertaken with HM Treasury.

The feasibility study will explore a range options to increase private sector involvement and investment in our roads. This will also examine how these options would be financed and how they interact with existing motoring taxation, but will not consider road pricing. It will also determine the role of tolling in the provision of new infrastructure, but it will not consider tolling existing capacity. The study will provide a report to the Prime Minister in autumn 2012.

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