Road Investment Strategy
|Road Investment Strategy|
|The improvements to M1 J19 while under construction.|
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|Department for Transport • Highways England|
The Road Investment Strategy is a plan implemented by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government of 2010-2015 to provide more regular funding for the Strategic Road Network (SRN), or Trunk Roads, of England. The plan included turning the Highways Agency into a Government owned company called Highways England and providing fixed funding periods, or 'Road Periods', to allow more schemes to reach construction. As part of the first Road Period, the government committed £15 billion to over 100 road schemes, including the flagship schemes of the Stonehenge Tunnel and the Huntingdon Southern Bypass.
As part of the Road Investment Strategy, the government announced that it would turn the Highways Agency into a government owned company called Highways England. This meant that the newly formed company was able to work more efficiently, providing an estimated saving of £2.6 billion by 2025, as well as being able to carry out work without the irregular funding that plagued the Highways Agency. This was catered for by the Infrastructure Act (2015) which was made to make planning easier and cut the red tape associated with building work. It has drawn criticism from people saying that it is just a rebrand and that it is another way to waste tax payers money, although others believe that it will mean more new schemes being built and a more driver focused delivery program, as opposed to a more politically charged one.
The other major announcement was the introduction of 5 year road investment periods that will provide more regular funding and bring it inline with Network Rail funding. A big issue with the Highways Agency was that it was not always able to progress a scheme as the funding was cut or reduced, meaning 'watered down' schemes that would not necessarily provide the benefits that were intended. The new Road Periods should do away with this, meaning that more schemes will make it to construction as the funding will be available for the scheme to be progressed. It should also mean more joined up planning (as seen with the A303 dualling and A12 widening schemes) so that routes will receive more improvements in one round of funding, as opposed to lots of smaller scale improvements that do not bring the intended benefits to the route, and in some cases make congestion worse as they were partially or wholly dependent on adjacent schemes that were subsequently cancelled (much like the M6 Toll-M54 link road hindering the M6 Toll or the A30 Goss Moor Dualling causing worse bottlenecks at Temple and Carland Cross).
Road Period 1
The first Road Period brings together some previously announced improvements, like the A1 improvements from Leeming to Barton and the A453 dualling from the M1 to Nottingham, with many new ones, like widening the A12 to Colchester and turning the A1 into a Dual Carriageway from Morpeth to Ellingham. Its flagship schemes include a new tunnel to bypass Stonehenge on the A303 and a new Huntingdon Southern Bypass on the A14. There are also a lot of newly announced smart motorway schemes which will bring relief to many major sections of Motorway by providing an extra lane at a fraction of the cost.
As part of the Road Investment Strategy, there was also an announcement to bring in a new class of road. Expressways are major A-Roads that are mostly or completely Dual Carriageway with the majority of their junctions grade separated and are capable of speeds of a mile a minute at most times in rural areas. They are meant to provide Motorway standard journey times and safety for routes that do not have the need to be built to the high standards of most major motorways (i.e. 3 lanes wide and a hard shoulder on each carriageway). Good examples of these already exist, including the A38 Devon Expressway, the A30 over Dartmoor, the A11 and A12 in East Anglia and the A14. The aim is to bring the majority of the SRN to this standard or better, with the A303 and A358 pioneering this with three major new schemes.