الخميس , يونيو 11 2020

£15bn 'roads revolution' outlined

Summer traffic on the A303The long-mooted tunnel to bypass Stonehenge on the A303 is one of the many schemes on the road investment list

A tunnel on a busy route at Stonehenge is among dozens of new road plans to be announced by the government, as part of a £15bn “roads revolution” for England.

The money – initially announced in 2013 – will involve 100 road improvement schemes and add 1,300 new miles of extra lanes to motorways and A roads.

The projects include the tunnel to tackle a bottleneck at Stonehenge on the A303 and improved M25 junctions.

Labour said the coalition’s record was one of “all talk and no delivery”.

‘Biggest and boldest’

The tunnel near the historic Stonehenge site in Wiltshire is among the 84 new projects announced, with the government saying the £15bn would be spent over the next five years.

The plans include improvements designed to tackle congestion on the A27 along the south coast and better links into Port of Liverpool. There will also be more money to upgrade the A1 in the North East.

Announcing the plan, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said roads were “key to our nation’s prosperity” and had suffered from under-investment for too long.

“Today I am setting out the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads programme for decades. It will dramatically improve our road network and unlock Britain’s economic potential,” he said.

Chancellor George Osborne said it would “transform some of the country’s most important strategic routes”.

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Analysis

File photo dated 22/8/2014 of motorists in heavy traffic on the M25 between junction 12 and 13 near Egham, Surrey

Richard Westcott, BBC Transport Correspondent

This is a large amount of money and a large number of schemes. The big question now, from many I’ve spoken to in the industry, is will they see it through?

Governments have a habit of announcing big plans for the roads, only to shelve them later on when the money gets tight.

It happened in the late 1980s when Margaret Thatcher promised the largest road building programme since the Romans.

The last Labour government was also going to build a tunnel under Stonehenge, until the costs got silly.

Even this coalition started life by announcing road maintenance budget cuts and cancelling projects.

Upcoming changes to the Highways Agency, giving it a guaranteed budget every five years, are meant to put an end to all that uncertainty.

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The plans, described as a “roads revolution” by ministers, have been published in the first ever Road Investment Strategy.

They are designed to tackle congestion and fix some of the most notorious trouble spots on the country’s roads, the government said.

Among the major plans are:

  • South West: £2bn to dual the entire A303 and A358 to the region, including a tunnel at Stonehenge
  • North East: £290m to complete the dualling of the A1 all the way from London to Ellingham, 25 miles from the Scottish border
  • North West and Yorkshire: Completing the “smart” lane on the M62 from Manchester to Leeds
  • North West: Improving links to the Port of Liverpool
  • South East: £350m of improvements to the A27 along the south coast
  • East: £300m to upgrade the east-west connection to Norfolk, by dualling sections of the A47 and improving its connections to the A1 and A11
  • London and South East: Improving one-third of the junctions on the M25
  • Midlands: Improving the M42 to the east of Birmingham

Motoring groups welcomed the plans. RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: “This is not about concreting over the countryside with new roads but upgrading many existing routes which have been the source of misery to motorists for years if not decades.

“That the government is investing money along whole lengths of roads and not just a mile or two here and there is to be welcomed.”

AA president Edmund King said the UK’s roads carried 86% of passenger journeys and more than 90% of freight, and problem roads could no longer be ignored.

‘Re-announcement’

But shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said it was “yet another re-announcement” on road improvements, and in reality “no additional money has been announced”.

“We know David Cameron’s record on infrastructure is one of all talk and no delivery. Infrastructure output has fallen significantly since May 2010 and less than a third of projects in the Government’s pipeline are actually classed as ‘in construction’.

“If ministers were as good at upgrading roads as they are at making announcements about upgrading roads, life would be considerably easier for Britain’s hard-pressed motorists who have been consistently let down by this government.”

The documents also outlined more detail on the plan to turn the Highways Agency into a government-owned company. The government said the move would mean funding could be allocated on a longer-term basis, saving the taxpayer at least £2.6bn over the next 10 years.

There was also £100m available to improve cycling provision at 200 key locations across the network, as well as a commitment to cycle-proof any new schemes being developed.

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