New national roads investment strategy announced

Local roads are set to benefit from a share in a multi-billion pound improvement fund as part of a landmark investment strategy unveiled by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

The strategy sets out a new long-term approach for infrastructure spending — meaning cash will be targeted at projects that help rebalance the economy.  It features the proposed creation of a new major road network, which would see a share of the annual National Road Fund, funded by VED, given to local authorities to improve or replace the most important A roads under their management.

The plans aim to improve productivity and connectivity of towns and cities across the country — tackling bottlenecks and traffic jams for road users, and taking away the misery of lorries and through-traffic thundering through rural villages on main roads.

The scheme will also aim to help people get to work or school by better connecting towns and cities, unlock land for new homes and improve business links — forming a crucial strand of the Government’s strategy to rebalance the economy by ensuring wealth is spread across the UK and not just concentrated in south-east England.

“Getting transport spending right is crucial for the country’s future,” Chris Grayling said. “At the heart of our approach is a plan to make transport work for the people who use it and for the wider economy. The strategy sets out how investment can deliver a stronger, fairer Britain — with priority for projects which cut congestion, support growth, boost Britain’s global competitiveness or unlock new housing.”

The proposals for the major road network respond to the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund study last year, which highlighted the disparity between the funding and planning of Britain’s motorways — the strategic road network — and local authority A roads.

The new plans mean those main roads currently overseen by local authorities would share the VED funded National Roads Fund which was previously envisaged to be ring-fenced for national routes. UK VED was £5.8 billion for 2016-17.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, commented: “This announcement does two important things: it brings closer the creation of dedicated, ring-fenced funding for our most important roads, and it recognises that many of the economically important routes that join up the country are the responsibility of cash-strapped local councils, rather than being centrally managed. In essence, the Transport Secretary is signalling a near doubling of the national road network to 8,000 miles.