Highways England has paused 11 major road schemes “indefinitely”, because of concerns that they are not value for money.
The road operator’s chief executive Jim O’Sullivan confirmed that the 11 schemes would be delayed for up to five years, after ruling that investment in the projects could no longer be justified.
Highways England has yet to name the projects that have been paused, however, has confirmed that all 11 were part of the government’s £15bn road investment strategy which was launched in 2015 and comes to a conclusion in 2020.
The five-year programme was supposed to upgrade 112 sections of road, including placing the A303 in a tunnel under Stonehenge, increasing sections of dual carriageway on the A1 in the northeast, and upgrading a third of the junctions on the M25.
Of the original 112 schemes, Highways England has confirmed that 29 have been finished, 15 are under way and 18 would start before the end of this year.
Quoted in Transport Network, while speaking at the Traffex conference, O’Sullivan said: “We revisited 11 and the return on investment just wasn’t good enough. We have paused those, perhaps for a time when the traffic demand will make them more viable.”
A Highways England spokesperson said that more information about the 11 schemes would be revealed in its annual delivery plan later this year.
“We’re on track to deliver the road investment programme agreed with the government,” said the spokesperson.
“We regularly review our plans to ensure they are achieving value for money for the taxpayer, and so motorists using motorways and major roads face the fewest possible delays.
“Meanwhile the upgrades we’re delivering are helping to keep drivers and businesses moving, and boosting the country’s economy.”
Highways England has confirmed that some upgrades are likely to be scrapped, with others pushed into its RIS2 investment programme, which will run from next year to 2025.
The pause comes as concerns continue to dog two of Highways England’s flagship projects, the Lower Thames Crossing and the Stonehenge Tunnel. MPs have recently expressed concerns about how they will be funded.
Both projects were set to be part funded by PF2 private finance deals, but since chancellor Phillip Hammond scrapped all PFI/ PF2 projects in the Autumn Budget, Highways England has been waiting to see what alternatives the Department for Transport will put forward.
As the projects were due to be privately funded, they were left out of the £25.3bn RIS2 draft funding plan.
At the time of the Autumn Budget Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan told New Civil Engineer that it – and the industry – needed an answer by the end of January. It is still waiting four months into the year.
Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.