Important council-managed A roads are at risk of missing out on crucial funding, according to a new report.
The A Major Road Network for England report says that around 6,115km of roads of economic importance are at risk of losing out because they are run by cash-strapped local authorities. This is in contrast to the 6,759km of Strategic Road Network (SRN) that is run by Highways England, which has a £15bn five-year improvement programme and long-term planning.
The independent study for the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund says that the council-controlled A roads deserve special recognition because of the role they play in supporting the economy and they should be put together with the SRN to form an 12,874km Major Road Network. This would carry 43% of England’s traffic on just 4% of road mileage.
There is no need, however, to transfer control of these additional roads to Highways England, according to the report.
Report authors and transport policy heavyweights David Quarmby and Phil Carey said that long-term planning and funding commitments, similar to those in place for the SRN, will ensure that the roads are up to the job. In addition, devolved transport bodies such as Transport for the North and Midlands Connect have a key role in this task.
From 2020, Highways England is expected to be largely funded from a new National Roads Fund, which should receive more than £5bn a year from Vehicle Excise Duty in England. The report says some of this investment could be used for council-funded roads that are part of the proposed Major Road Network.
“You clearly have to draw the line somewhere, but there is a strong argument for the economic importance of many more miles of A road being acknowledged – while recognising the value of them remaining under local control. If they are given premier league status, they should have access to premier league planning, funding and continuity,” said Quarmby.
“Just last week the chancellor committed to continuing public investment in our infrastructure, while ensuring economic growth is distributed more evenly across the regions. Investing in the Major Road Network will – through its greater connectivity and broader geographical scope than the Strategic Road Network alone – help to achieve that wider spread of growth.
“In return for appropriate levels of funding, the Major Road Network must become ‘fit for purpose’. This means being driven by the needs and concerns of users; tackling adverse impacts on communities and the environment, including fitting in with the particular challenges of larger urban areas; and ensuring the network is safe, effectively managed and well-maintained.”