SPENDING ON the trunk road network in the next three years will fall £260M short of targets set in the Government's 10 year transport plan, contractors claimed this week.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association said it had identified the shortfall after analysing the Highways Agency's budget for the three years to 2004. It then compared this with figures in last July's 10 year plan.
CECA identifies a shortfall of nearly £100M in the Agency's budget for 2001/2 followed by over £30M in 2002/3 and £130M in 2003/4.
'You scratch your head thinking there could be a small disparity, but not £260M, ' said CECA chief economist Jim Turner. 'It is too much to be taken up by something like detrunking.'
CECA added it was deeply disappointed that only eight road starts were planned this year.
It warned that the trunk road programme, known as the Targeted Programme of Improvements (TPI), was moving far too slowly to meet the targets set out in the 10 year transport plan.
'It had been felt that the business plan might indicate some speeding up of the remaining 18 schemes in the TPI. However, rather than any acceleration, two schemes - the A2/A282 Dartford Improvement DBFO and the A34 Chieveley/M4 Junction 3 improvement - appear to have slipped, ' said Turner An Agency spokesman denied the figures were cause for concern. 'We are still finalising our programme and budgets for the next three years and there will be some difference with the figures in the plan. But there will be money spent on the trunk roads that will not come from the Highways Agency.'