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Money well spent. This is the latest list of improvements announced today by the dft under its pinch point programme. Gives an astonishing benefit cost ratio of around 15 to 1. Details from a department press release

The Highways Agency is to deliver 57 vital road improvements to boost the economy, reduce congestion and improve safety, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced today.

The £170 million investment is part of a £217 million programme to remove bottlenecks and keep traffic moving on England’s motorways and major A roads. The economic benefit of these 57 schemes is estimated at around £3 billion.

Many of the improvements will be delivered in 2013 and 2014, and they will all be completed by March 2015. Today’s announcement brings the total number of schemes to receive investment from the Government’s pinch point fund to 65. A third stage of projects will be announced next year.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

“These £217 million road improvements prove the Government’s determination to accelerate growth and cut congestion.

“Keeping traffic moving is vital to securing prosperity. By removing bottlenecks and improving access to local enterprise zones, key international trading ports and communities, these road schemes will help get people to and from work and power the economy. They also have the potential to help deliver more than 300,000 new jobs and 150,000 new homes.”

The improvements include an £11 million scheme to widen and improve junction 4 of the M5 near Bromsgrove, with significant benefits for Longbridge, former home of the MG Rover manufacturing plant. It will support a local authority and local enterprise partnership development plan that aims to create around 10,000 jobs and 3,000 homes in the region.

At junction 5 of the M27, near Eastleigh, a £4.9m scheme will reduce congestion by widening approach roads and slips roads and providing a segregated left turn lane onto the M27 eastbound. This supports several local development plans, including Solent Enterprise Zone, Eastleigh Riverside, Southampton Airport and Southampton City Centre, with the potential to create around 12,000 jobs and 7,000 homes.

These improvement schemes form part of the Government’s growth initiative outlined during the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in November 2011. Funds have been allocated to the Highways Agency to undertake focused improvements to the strategic road network.

Details of the schemes:

Yorkshire, Humber and the North East

M1 junction 41 improvement, Leeds (map ref. 2)
Reduce congestion by widening the A650 approaches to three lanes and creating three lanes on the overbridge. Improving traffic signals and signage.
Supports the Snowhill and other development, which are expected to create 3,800 new jobs and 395 homes by 2020.
Cost £2m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

M1 junction 33 Catcliffe Interchange, Sheffield (map ref. 3)
Reduce congestion by widening the exit slip roads to three lanes and creating three lanes on the overbridge as well as localised widening to some connecting roads and roundabouts.
Supports the planned new advanced manufacturing park, the Highfield commercial office campus, the Waverley new community and other community facilities. 4,517 jobs and 360 new homes predicted by 2020.
Cost £1.9m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

M1 junction 44 improvement, Leeds (map ref. 4)
Reduce congestion by providing a cut-through in the northern roundabout, full-time traffic signals and localised widening.
Improves access to Lower Aire Valley Enterprise Zone and other sites in the Aire Valley Leeds Area Action Plan. Could support around 3,300 new jobs and 300 new homes by 2020.
Cost £1.8m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

M1 junction 40 southbound exit improvement, Wakefield (map ref. 5)
Reduce congestion and improve safety by widening the southbound exit slip road, using the hard shoulder, as well as some local widening to connected roads.
Suports several development sites that could provide around 2185 new jobs and 85 new homes by 2020.
Cost £0.7m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

M18 junctions 2 to 3 northbound improvement, Doncaster (map ref. 6)
Reduce congestion and improve safety by introducing a lane gain at junction 2 and a lane drop at junction 3, using the hard shoulder and part of the central reserve.
Provides access to Robin Hood Doncaster Airport via two recently built dual carriageways, with the potential to create 24,000 new jobs and 5,000 new houses by 2020.
Cost £3.5m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

M62 junction 32 eastbound exit improvement, Pontefract (map ref. 7)
Reduce queuing traffic by widening the eastbound exit slip road.
Supports proposed development sites in the area that could generate 1,300 jobs and 314 houses by 2020.
Cost £2m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

M62 junction 31 eastbound exit improvement, Castleford (map ref. 8)
Reduce congestion by widening and extending the eastbound exit slip road.
Supports proposed development sites in the area that could generate 1,280 jobs and 290 houses by 2020.
Cost £2m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

A19/A174 Parkway junction improvement, Middlesbrough (map ref. 9)
Reduce congestion by widening the roundabouts and upgrading the traffic signal system.
Supports the creation of 2,950 jobs and four separate housing developments (1,123 houses) by 2020. Crucial to delivering three of the Tees Valley Enterprise Zone sites and supports access to Teesport.
Cost £6.3m. Starts 2013. Ends 2015.

A1/A19 Seaton Burn Interchange and Fisher Lane junction improvements, Northumberland (map ref. 10)
Reduce congestion by improving the A1 northbound and southbound diverge and merge facilities, widening the A1068, A1 and A19 approaches to Fisher Lane roundabout and installing traffic signals on the B1318 approach.
Supports a number of future developments, including identified strategic growth areas, with the potential to create 17,300 jobs and 16,300 homes by 2020.
Cost £6.1m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A19/A689 Wolviston Interchange, Wynyard (map ref. 11)
Reduce congestion by upgrading the A19 southbound merge, widening the A689 west approach to the roundabout and installing traffic signals on all approaches to the junction.
Supports opportunities in three enterprise zones, each backed by a local development order. Two sites are expected to generate 1,940 jobs by 2020. A site has been identified in Hartlepool’s core strategy for 2,500 houses. Also supports export economy associated with Hartlepool port.
Cost £6.1m. Starts 2013. Ends 2015.

South West

A38 Drumbridges roundabout improvement, Newton Abbott (map ref. 14)
Reduce congestion by increasing capacity, installing traffic signals and constructing a pedestrian and cycle bridge.
Identified as a major, high priority improvement in the Devon and Torbay Local Transport Plan, with the potential to support 1,760 new jobs and 1,200 new homes by 2020.
Cost £4.1m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

A38/A380 Splatford Split improvement (map ref. 15)
Reduce congestion by creating an additional lane for traffic merging with the A38 from the A380.
Supports growth in the region by unlocking significant pieces of land and attracting new businesses to the area. Potential to support 10,000 new jobs and 1,900 new homes by 2020.
Cost £5.5m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

A38 Manadon slip road improvement, Plymouth (map ref. 16)
Reducing congestion by widening and lengthening the entry slip roads onto the A38.
Supports major developments in the area that could create 2,350 jobs and 2,735 homes by 2020.
Cost £1.8m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

M5 junction 16 slip road improvement, South Gloucestershire (map ref. 17)
Reducing congestion by widening the northbound exit slip road, creating a lane for traffic turning left towards the A38 north.
Supports access to Bristol airport and port. Supports growth in places such as Filton Airfield, Patchway and Cribbs Causeway, with the potential to create 6,350 jobs and 2,990 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.3m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

M5 junction 30 slip road improvement, Exeter (map ref. 18)
Reducing congestion by widening the southbound exit slip road and improving traffic signals.
Supports planned developments such as Cranbrook, Newcourt and Sowton Industrial Estate. Supports development in the East of Exeter Enterprise Area. Potential to create 12,735 jobs and 5,480 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.9m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

M5 junction 17 slip road improvement, Bristol (map ref. 19)
Reduce congestion by widening the southbound exit slip road and providing an additional hard shoulder as well as providing a new, dedicated left turn lane on Merlin Road.
Supports growth at Filton, Cribbs Causeway and Patchway. Provides access to south west Bristol, Easter Compton and Severn Beach. Supports developments that could create 6,350 jobs and 2,990 homes by 2020.
Cost £1.1m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A303 Cartgate roundabout improvement, Yeovil (map ref. 20)
Reduce congestion by providing two dedicated left-turn lanes form the A303 westbound to the A3088 towards Yeovil and the A3088 from Yeovil to the A303 westbound.
Supports developments that could create up to 21,235 jobs and 6,640 homes by 2020.
Cost £1.3m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

South East

M20 junctions 6 to 7 improvement, Maidstone (map ref 22)
Reduce congestion with signing.
Supports several development sites, anticipated to create 10,400 jobs, and several residential developments, anticipated to create 8,400 homes by 2020
Cost £0.3m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

A27 Ford Roundabout improvement, Arundel (map ref. 23)
Reduce congestion by providing two lanes at the westbound entry to the roundabout and providing new lane markings on the roundabout and associated roads.
Supports several development sites, anticipated to create 10,400 jobs, and several residential developments, anticipated to create 8,400 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.04m. Starts 2013. Ends 2015.

A404 Bisham roundabout improvement, Maidenhead (map ref. 24)
Reduce congestion by converting the roundabout to signalised crossroads.
Supports a number of opportunity areas, which are anticipated to create 6,800 jobs and 2,403 new homes by 2020.
Cost £4.2m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

M27 junction 3 improvement, Southampton (map ref. 25)
Reduce congestion by widening the westbound exit slip road, providing four lanes on all four carriageway sections and installing traffic signals.
Supports the Adanac Park Development, other sites such as the Solent Enterprise Zone, Daedalus Airfield and Southampton Port. Anticipated to support the creation of 12,670 jobs and 7,015 homes by 2020.
Cost £2m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

A34/M3 junction 9 Easton Lane improvement, Winchester (map ref. 26)
Reduce congestion and improve safety by improving the signing and lane designations.
Supports the generation of 595 jobs and 2,185 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.4m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

M27 junction 5 improvement, Eastleigh (map ref. 27)
Reduce congestion by widening approach roads and slip roads and providing a segregated left turn lane on to the M27 eastbound.
Supports several local development plans, including Solent Enterprise Zone, Eastleigh Riverside, Southampton Airport and Southampton City Centre. Anticipated to support the creation of 12,800 jobs and 7,640 homes by 2020.
Cost £4.9m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

A3 Ham Barn roundabout improvement (map ref. 28)
Reduce congestion by creating a segregated left turn lane from the A3. Entry widths and lane markings will be improved and an additional lane created on the roundabout.
By 2020, supports the creation of 385 jobs through the Whitehill Bordon Eco Town, Petersfield development as well as 2,210 homes in the same development along with those at Liss, Liphook and Petersfield.
Cost £1.2m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

M3 junction 6 and Black Dam improvement, Basingstoke (map ref. 29)
Reduce congestion by converting the roundabout so that a lane passes through the centre, widening on the A30 and improving lane signing and markings.
Supports the 13,220 jobs created by the Basingstoke and Dean and Basing View developments by 2020. Also supports the creation of 4,080 homes by 2020.
Cost £4.3m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

North West

M6 junction 32 and M55 junction 1 improvement, Preston (map ref. 31)
Reduce congestion by widening the M6 south of the junction and providing three lanes within the junction. Signals will be added to the M55 junction 1 roundabout.
Supports the housing and employment sites designated within the emerging local development framework, and the significant presence of the aerospace industry in the region. Supports the creation of 25,235 jobs and 6,225 homes by 2020.
Cost £7.2m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

A590/A5092 Greenodd junction, South Lakeland (map ref. 32)
Reduce congestion and improve safety by replacing the existing junction with a roundabout including dual carriageway entry and exit roads for the A590. There will be a two-lane entry to the roundabout from the A5092, allowing for left and right turners to have separate lanes.
The A590 plays an important role in linking east and west Cumbria and so will benefit from improvement of the junction. Supports the creation of 3,700 jobs and 1,265 homes by 2020.
Cost £2.2m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

A5036/Bridge Road improvement, Sefton (map ref. 33)
Reduce congestion by providing a westbound lane though the centre of the roundabout, separating local and through traffic. There will also be new pedestrian and cycle facilities.
Supports Sefton Council’s main economic regeneration sites, including Atlantic Park and the plans to expand the Port of Liverpool. Supports several local development sites, anticipated to generate 4,400 jobs and 1,000 homes by 2020.
Cost £6m. Starts 2013. Ends 2014.

A55/ A483 junction improvement, Chester (map ref. 34)
Reduce congestion by widening the A55 eastbound exit slip road and parts of the circulatory carriageway as well as installing traffic signals to the A483 southbound approach.
Supports Chester Business Park – a key regional economic driver as well as acting as a key junction linking North West England and North Wales. Supports the creation of 11,650 jobs and 1,770 homes by 2020.
Cost £8m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

M56 junction 11 Daresbury improvement (map ref. 35)
Reduce congestion by installing traffic signals and widening the overbridges and the westbound M56 exit slip road.
Supports large scale employment and residential developments proposed immediately next to the junction as well as the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus. Supports the creation of 15,000 jobs and 2,860 homes by 2020.
Cost £4.5m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

M6 junction 17 Sandbach improvement, Cheshire (map ref. 36)
Reduce congestion by converting the existing slip road junctions to a roundabout for the northbound side and a signalised junction for the southbound side.
Supports traffic from local roads to access larger cites via the M6, as well as for traffic from the M6 to access employment sites in surrounding towns. Supports the creation of 14,875 jobs and 1,750 homes by 2020.
Cost £3.4m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

Midlands

M6 junction 9 improvement, Walsall (map ref. 40)
Reduce congestion by upgrading the existing traffic signals, including new controllers, sensors and lights.
Supports access to nearby retail park and residential areas as well as Darlaston Enterprise Zone and potential housing developments that could create around 1,900 jobs and 3,500 houses by 2020.
Cost £0.4m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

A49/A438 Newmarket Street improvement, Hereford (map ref. 41)
Reduce congestion by widening the A49 approach to the roundabout.
Supports the Edgar Street Grid regeneration scheme and the Rotherwise Enterprise Zone. Supports the creation of 7,575 jobs and 3,300 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.4m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A5/A5148 Wall Island improvement, Wall (map ref. 42)
Reduce congestion by widening some of the approach and exit roads to the roundabout and installing traffic signals.
Supports Lichfield’s future LDF housing growth of around 1,300 houses and contributes to restarting stalled employment sites in Lichfield, which could create around 3,185 jobs by 2020.
Cost £0.9. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A49/A465 Belmont Road junction, Hereford (map ref. 43)
Reduce congestion by realigning the junction and adding signals to account for local traffic movements to and from the supermarket and the A465.
Supports the Edgar Street Grid regeneration scheme and the Rotherwise Enterprise Zone. Supports the creation of 7,575 jobs and 3,300 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.3m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

M42 junction 10 improvement, Tamworth (map ref. 44)
Reduce congestion by widening several approach and exit roads and installing traffic signals, along with pedestrian crossing points.
Supports the creation of 2,250 jobs and 1,685 homes by 2020. It also supports movements to major gateways, such as Birmingham International Airport.
Cost £2.8m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A50/A500 Sideway Island improvement, Stoke-on-Trent (map ref. 45)
Reduce congestion and improve safety by improving the signing and road markings, installing new traffic signals and undertaking some minor widening.
Supports the creation of 1,105 jobs and 420 homes by 2020. Also supports long-distance trips between the M1 and M6.
Cost £0.8m. Starts 2014. Ends 2104.

A49/A4103 Starting Gate junction, Hereford (map ref. 46)
Reduce congestion by widening the A4103 approach road and realigning the road to provide two lanes on the A49 southbound and A4103 westbound approaches.
Supports the Edgar Street Grid regeneration scheme and the Rotherwise Enterprise Zone. Supports the creation of 7,575 jobs and 3,300 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.2m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A5 Edgebold roundabout improvement, Shrewsbury (map ref. 47)
Reduce congestion by widening the approaches to the junction and revising the signage and road markings.
Supports the creation of 2,045 jobs and 1,810 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.4m. Start 2014. End 2014.

M42 junction 6 improvement, Solihull (map ref. 48)
Reduce congestion, particularly when major events take place at the National Exhibition Centre, by widening the roundabout and its approach and exit roads.
Supports the Birmingham Business Park, Birmingham International Airport and the proposed NEC leisure complex. Supports local economic growth though the Birmingham City Enterprise Zone, M42 Economic Gateway High Technology Corridor and the North Solihull Regeneration Plan. Supports the creation of 4,260 jobs and 795 homes by 2020.
Cost £7.4m. Start 2014. End 2014.

M5 junction 4 phase 2 widening, Bromsgrove (map ref. 49)
Reduce congestion by widening and realigning the roundabout and improving signage and road markings.
Supports the creation of 10,250 jobs and 3,380 homes by 2020.
Cost £11.3m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

A5 Churncote Island improvements, Shrewsbury (map ref. 50)
Reduce congestion by widening the A458 westbound and A5 northbound approach roads as well as improving signage and road markings.
Supports the creation of 2,045 jobs and 1,810 homes by 2020.
Cost £1.5m. Starts 2013. Ends 2014.

A49 Preston Boat improvements, Shrewsbury (map ref. 51)
Reduce congestion by replacing the existing roundabout with a signal-controlled junction.
Supports the creation of 2,045 jobs and 1,810 homes by 2020.Cost £3.3m. Starts 2013. Ends 2014

A5 Emstrey Island improvements, Shrewsbury (map ref. 52)
Reduce congestion by realigning both the A5 approaches and creating dedicated turning lanes and two dedicated lanes through the roundabout for traffic on the A5.
Supports the creation of 2,045 jobs and 1,810 homes by 2020.
Cost £3.8m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

M42 junction 9 improvement (map ref. 53)
Reduce congestion by widening the southbound entry slip road and upgrading the traffic signals.
Supports local economic growth in the Birmingham City Enterprise Zone, the M42 Economic Gateway High Technology Corridor and the North Solihull Regeneration Area. It will also unlock connectivity to a considerable amount of employment land in Coleshill and North Warwickshire with around 1730 additional jobs and 205 additional houses in the area around this junction by 2020.
Cost £0.5m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

M5 junction 2 improvement, Sandwell (map ref. 54)
Reduce congestion by widening the north and southbound exit slip roads, add a lane to the eastern section of the roundabout and improve the signage and road markings.
Supports the creation of 785 jobs and 6,700 homes by 2020.
Cost £1.7m. Starts 2012. Ends 2013.

M1 junction 24 A50 approach improvement, Derby (map ref. 55)
Reduce congestion by constructing a new carriageway to take traffic travelling south from the A50 to the M1.
Supports the creation of 1,300 jobs and 2,750 homes by 2020. Supports significant development proposals in the area, including sites with planning approval. The junction has also been identified as the site of a potential strategic rail freight interchange.
Cost £5.7m. Starts 2014. Ends 2015.

M40 junction 10 improvement (map ref. 56)
Reduce congestion and improve safety by replacing the current southbound entry slip road from Padbury roundabout with a new slip road from the Cherwell roundabout, which will have a modified design. The A43 southbound will be widened and realigned to pass through the centre of the roundabout and new traffic signals will be installed.
Supports the significant link between the M40/A34 and M1/A45/A14 routes. There are significant development proposals in the local area, including the North West Bicester eco-town, Silverstone and Brackley. Supports the creation of 4,300 jobs and 2,000 homes by 2020.
Cost £1.3m. Starts 2014. Ends 2104.

A45 Wilby Way improvements, Wellingborough (map ref. 57)
Reduce congestion by widening part of the roundabout and approach roads and installing traffic signals.
Supports a number of significant employment and housing sites in the vicinity of the junction with the potential to create 5,600 jobs and 3,000 homes by 2020.
Cost £3.2m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

A38 Markeaton improvements (map ref. 58)
Reduce congestion by widening the roundabout and some of the approach roads along with installing traffic signals.
Supports future development in Derby City Centre and housing growth in the wider area. Improvement of the A38 Derby junctions is a key priority for D2N2 (the local enterprise partnership for the area). Supports the creation of 12,300 jobs and 3,300 homes by 2020.
Cost £2.6m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

A43/A5 Tove junction improvement (map ref. 59)
Reduce congestion by widening the A43 through the junction and installing traffic signals.
Supports proposed identified growth sites at Towcester and Silverstone Circuit. Supports the creation of 3,500 jobs and 1,000 homes by 2020.
Cost £3.1m. Starts 2014. Ends 2104.

East

A14 junction 31 to 32 improvement, Cambridgeshire (map ref. 60)
Reduce congestion by widening the A14 between junctions 31 and 32, and installing three sign gantries across the width of the carriageway.
Supports Northstowe Phase 1 development, which will create 582 jobs and 1,480 new homes. Supports the gateways of Felixstowe and Harwich ports. It also supports the outputs from the A14 Challenge study, providing early improvements consistent with the new A14 major improvement scheme announced by the Transport Secretary on 18 July 2012. Supports the creation of 580 jobs and 3,500 homes by 2020.
Cost £7.7m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A1(M) junction 6 northbound all lane running, Welwyn (map ref. 61)
Reduce congestion by converting the existing hard shoulder to a running lane, including installing a sign gantry spanning both gantries along with variable message signs, CCTV, sensor loops and speed enforcement cameras.
Supports local economic growth in Hatfield Business Park, Gunnels Wood Road, GSK, Stevenage Town Centre Regeneration and Knebworth Innovation Park and the gateway of London Luton Airport. Supports the creation of 9,485 jobs and 3,840 homes by 2020.
Cost £6.2m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A1 Black Cat part-time signals, Chawston (map ref. 62)
Reduce congestion by widening the roundabout and the A1 approach roads.
Supports several local development sites, anticipated to generate 4,450 jobs and 11,655 homes by 2020. The gateways of London Luton Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich will also be supported.
Cost £6.4m. Starts 2014. Ends 2014.

A47 Honingham roundabout expressway (map ref. 63)
Reduce congestion by constructing an eastbound express lane, allowing traffic to bypass the roundabout.
Supports several local development sites, anticipated to generate 1,355 jobs and 1,200 homes by 2020.
Cost £1.3m. Starts 2013. Ends 2014.

A1/A47 Wansford junction, Peterborough (map ref. 64)
Reduce congestion by providing additional signage and improved road markings.
Supports several local development sites, anticipated to generate 6,820 jobs and 13,765 homes by 2020.
Cost £0.06m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

A120 Galleys Corner roundabout improvement, Essex (map ref. 65)
Reduce congestion and improve safety by widening the roundabout to encourage A120 traffic to use both lanes.
Supports several local development sites, anticipated to generate 1,430 jobs and 750 homes by 2020.. It will also support the gateway of Stansted Airport with a significant proportion of its traffic using the A120.
Cost £0.3m. Starts 2013. Ends 2013.

END

Notes to Editors
1. The Highways Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Transport. We manage, maintain and improve England’s motorways and other strategic roads on behalf of the Secretary of State.

2.The pinch point programme, announced in the Chancellor’s 2011 autumn statement, is part of the UK Government’s growth initiative with funding of £217.5m to address specific pinch points on the strategic road network. The first tranche of eight schemes, worth £18.5 million was announced in July 2012. A third tranche will be announced next year.

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More often than not blogs allow for comment, but on occasion they have a role to play as a place of record; such as now. It is sometimes hard to keep track of what transport announcements the Government makes, so to help I am putting below more details of the news this morning that six major road schemes are going forward for development. Though there is no commitment to then take the schemes forward to construction, it would be odd if the commitment of funds for development work did not then lead to shovels in the ground, especially given that these schemes are to a large extent known quantities.

“The development work – to be carried out over the next three years – will ensure that a ‘pipeline’ of future Highways Agency major infrastructure improvements will be maintained, contributing to future economic growth, and supporting Government’s National Infrastructure Plan. By developing these now, proposals will be in a good position to be considered for delivery in the early years of the next spending review period (post 2015).

“The six schemes are:

  • M4 Junctions 3-12 managed motorway scheme; Thames Valley
  • M25 Junction 30 / A13 congestion relief scheme, Thurrock;
  • A19/A1058 Coast Road Junction improvement; North Tyneside
  • A21 Tonbridge – Pembury widening; Kent
  • A63 Castle Street improvements, Hull; and
  • A160/A180 improvements, Immingham

“Roads Minister Mike Penning said:

“We are committed to tackling congestion, keeping traffic moving and supporting the UK economy, putting in money where it’s most needed and where the public will get a good return on investment.

“We have already announced around £3bn of investment to complete work on Highways Agency major road projects under construction and to allow work to start before March 2015 on 20 much-needed road improvement schemes.

“Today, I am confirming development work will be advanced on a further six schemes around the country. This means they will be in a good position to be selected for start of works in the early years of the next spending review period.”

“The development work will focus on designing and consulting on proposals, along with progressing any necessary statutory processes.

“Today’s announcement also marks the conclusion of a review process for four schemes – including the M4 J3-12 managed motorway scheme – from the 2010 Spending Review.

“The M3 Junctions 2-4a managed motorway scheme has already been added to the roads programme with a start of work date of 2013/14.

“The two remaining proposals, the M20 Junction 10a and M54 to M6/M6 Toll link road, will continue to be considered for future delivery along with other schemes.

“Those proposals not selected at this time to have their development work advanced are still good schemes that address clear problems, and the Department will continue to work with key stakeholders to drive down costs and maximise public value for money.

  1. Schemes were assessed according to their economic case (Benefit Cost Ratio), how well they fit strategically with the needs of the network and the economy, and their readiness for construction. Advancing the development work of the six schemes does not guarantee that they will be funded; decisions about which schemes will enter the programme in the next period will be taken at the next spending review.
  2. The investment to develop the schemes will come from efficiencies achieved by the Highways Agency in delivering improvements to major roads that are in the current roads programme.
  3. The Highways Agency will be working through the optimum programme and final costs for the development of each scheme shortly and further announcements on next steps for each scheme will be made in due course.
  4. In addition to the six schemes selected to have their development work funded, the Highways Agency are continuing to develop the A5 – M1 Link Road (Dunstable Northern Bypass) following the Government having secured £45 million private sector investment towards the scheme.”

 

 

 

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Hallelujah. If for no other reason, the Prime Minister is to be congratulated for putting the chronic problems surrounding the roads – poor condition, predicted growth in traffic volume and an explosion in congestion – at the top of the political agenda.

For too long the transport debate in Westminster has centred on the railways, particularly HS2. But today’s speech at the Institute of Civil Engineering, in which David Cameron said the country needs to be “more ambitious” about improvements to its road network, provided a welcome sign that the Coalition Government does actually care about the mode of choice for most UK travellers most of the time.

The PM added: “We need to look urgently at the options for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network – from sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and other investors.

“That’s why I have asked the Department for Transport and the Treasury to carry out a feasibility study of new ownership and financing models for the national roads system and to report progress to me in the Autumn.

“Let me be clear: this is not about mass tolling – and as I’ve said, we’re not tolling existing roads – it’s about getting more out of the money that motorists already pay.

“We will take difficult decisions, we will risk short-term unpopularity, and we will hold fast to our vision in the face of vested interests, because our motivation and our duty is to protect and champion the national interest.”

On the face of it he certainly risks unpopularity. There has long been an aversion to any suggestion of the road network being privatised and drivers having to pay tolls. But David Cameron has been equivocal about both these matters.

The idea seems to be that private firms will be given the chance to run long-term concessions on the road network. They will have to pay a large sum of cash up front and undertake to maintain and enhance the road network, in exchange for which they will receive a fee from the government. That fee could well be found from existing motoring taxation such as VED, something the PM hinted at when he remarked, “…it’s about getting more out of the money that motorists already pay”.

A variation of the theme is for private investors to fund new capacity where the public sector cannot afford it and then collect charges from the user similar to the situation on the M6 Relief Road.

The activities of the private sector would be overseen by an independent regulator, already amusingly dubbed Offroad.

What the franchises will offer is a degree of stability, certainty and strategic thinking which has been absent from roads policy. While there is a five-year plan for the railways, and water companies must have a 25-year programme for providing customers with clean and adequate water, those running the major roads – the Highways Agency – live a peculiar hand to mouth existence with their funding left to the annual whim of politicians as part of the Budget process.

Motorists contribute around £32 billion each year to the Exchequer – £26 billion in fuel duty and £6 billion in VED. For that they get a relatively paltry £10 billion spent on the roads. In an ideal world the slice of the pie which comes back to the road user would be much greater. Unfortunately things are far from ideal.

Labour worries that any Pay As You Go scheme is the thin end of the wedge, and rightly asks where tolling on new capacity – which ministers have backed – might end. Would it apply to every new junction, bridge and widening scheme? These are valid concerns, but they are not a reason to avoid the debate on this particularly important topic.

The progress report due in the Autumn should make an interesting read. Particularly if it goes any way to addressing what the Prime Minister regards as the past “failure of nerve” when it comes to tackling this thorny topic.

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