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Exclusive | Regional road bodies told to prepare for £1bn bonanza

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Regional transport authorities have been confidentially told by government to start preparing mothballed road projects for delivery ahead of a £1bn funding bonanza this Autumn.

New Civil Engineer understands that the Department for Transport (DfT) has given the green light for the establishment of a newly designated Major Road Network to ensure major trunk roads not managed by Highways England receive a share of the National Road Fund that government has committed to from 2020.

The ringfenced fund will receive cash collected from vehicle excise duty, typically £6bn a year. It was previously set to be reserved for the Strategic Road Network run by Highways England but after heavy lobbying from local and regional transport groups, the DfT has accepted that £1bn to £1.2bn of the fund should be allocated for upgrades on non-Highways England run trunk roads.

New Civil Engineer understands that the creation and continued strengthening of sub-national transport bodies such as Transport for the North, Transport for the South East and England’s Economic Heartland has persuaded DfT that there is a route through which the funds can be channelled effectively.

It means these bodies, many of which already have a statutory role in planning transport priorities, gain real power.

Mrn england fig 3.1

Mrn england fig 3.1

The Rees Jeffreys proposal

In 2016 A Major Road Network for England, a report published by the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, argued that A-roads risked losing out financially, as they are controlled by cash-strapped local authorities. The report called for A-roads and the Highways England-controlled Strategic Road Network to be joined together, creating a 12,874km Major Road Network.

Ministers confirmed their support for the idea last summer and have since then been consulting on who would manage the funds and how much would be allocated.

Under the proposals, local highways authorities would retain their existing responsibilities and submit proposals for transformative schemes of between £20M and £50M – rising to a maximum of £100M in exceptional circumstances – to sub-national transport bodies or equivalent regional groups.

Official announcement of how much cash will be made available and full details about how the money will be bid for is expected around the time of the annual Budget statement in late October.

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