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Call for council roads to get same treatment as strategic network

Local roads funding

Thousands of kilometres of local authority roads should be covered by a five-year planning and funding process, an expert has urged.

Former RAC Foundation chairman David Quarmby said a major road network (MRN) should be created to combine the existing Highways England-managed strategic roads with the most important council-run roads.

Quarmby was speaking at a Highways UK conference this week about his work so far on a study for charity the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund.

He said a working map of a possible MRN had been set to include A-roads used by an average of 20,000 vehicles or more per day as well as those heavily used by vans and lorries or ensuring access to towns of at least 50,000 people.

Added to the existing strategic road network of motorways and major trunk roads, this created a network of some 12,800km, according to the Rees Jeffreys project.

“To us this MRN feels sensible,” said Quarmby. “For example, it fills out the significant road network in the West Yorkshire conurbation where the strategic road network (SRN) is really only the M62 and M1 motorways.”

He said that motorways and local A-roads often impacted on each other.

“Many of the most congested parts of the motorway network are caused by local traffic going only two or three junctions, particularly around conurbations,” said Quarmby.

“Easing today’s pressure may involve overhauling parts of the local authority MRN; equally, trunk road improvements or even new alignments can ease pressure on local major roads.

“The best solutions must not be constrained by the radically different planning and funding regimes between Highways England and local authorities.”

A similar planning and funding regime was needed for all roads in the MRN, the independent consultant insisted. 

“This would require a Roads Investment Strategy-style five-year planning process and funding commitment to cover agreed improvement plans on the local authority MRN alongside the SRN,” Quarmby said.

“This would completely change the basis for funding the revenue and capital expenditure on the most important 5,600km of local authority roads in England. It would also address the yawning gap between the complex funding mechanisms and lower resources for local authority road maintenance and capital, and that for the Highways England.”

Major Roads for the Future, a two-year study funded by charity the ReesJeffreys Road Fund, is being led by Quarmby with support of an advisory panel, which includes Balfour Beatty director Tony Gates and Transport for London asset development manager James Byles.

A final report is expected next year.


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