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A Conservative government would strip local authorities of their highway authority role and pass it to the private sector if they were found to be performing badly, NCE has learned.

Shadow Transport Minister Bernard Jenkin last week proposed the introduction of an independent road inspectorate during his speech to the Tory party conference.

Sources close to Jenkin told NCE this week that if the service to road users offered by councils was found to be below the standards set by the inspectorate they would be sacked and replaced.

Performance against criteria such as congestion, condition, noise and accident rates would be used to judge penalties.

The Tory party policy document due out in December is expected to confirm the plan and set out the detail of how more private sector involvement in the operation of the road network could be facilitated.

With the Tories buoyed by recent opinion polls, Jenkin also promised more road building.

Working on the basis that less traffic congestion will lead to a better environment, he pledged to widen more motorways and build more bypasses.

A source said: 'We would certainly bring forward a proper Salisbury bypass and much more motorway widening.'

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