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Major roads funding scheme met with scepticism

highways england generic

Investment guidance from the government on new Major Road Network (MRN) funding has been met with scepticism by sub-national bodies.

Following a public consultation earlier this year, the government has published its advice and guidance for local authorities looking to take advantage of the MRN programme.  

The scheme is designed to help local authorities develop their road networks. However, the guidelines have been met with scepticism from some corners.   

Works eligible for funding under the programme include; bypasses or new alignments, missing Links (new roads that link existing stretches of the MRN or SRN), widening of existing MRN roads, major structural renewals on roads, bridges, tunnels and viaducts on MRN roads, and major junction improvements such as a grade separation. 

However, some have reacted with scepticism that the government has yet to fully commit to funding the programme.  

“Much to welcome – but MRN will only make a difference if government commits to funding it,” says England’s Economic Heartland’s Strategic Transport Forum chair Mayor Dave Hodgson.  

“We need government to give confidence to local communities and potential investors that rhetoric will be backed up by hard cash.” 

At the last Budget the government announced the National Roads Fund would be £28.8bn between 2020-2025, £3.5bn of which is expected to be spent on local roads.

The government has already fully backed some projects, but others have been left waiting, Hodgson said  

“We are still awaiting news on whether our two proposals for ‘early entry’ into the investment programme – improving capacity on the A414 in Hertfordshire and dualling of the Eastern Link Road in Aylesbury – will be taken forward.” 

“This is despite funding announcements for MRN schemes elsewhere in the country having already taken place.” 

Despite others scepticism, Transport for the North (TfN) major roads director Peter Molyneux said the programme was welcome. 

“As England’s first Sub-national Transport Body, we welcome the creation of a Major Road Network. It will help us to better connect our local economies across the North and provide better opportunities for people and businesses,” he said. 

“We will be publishing our finalised 30-year Strategic Transport Plan next year, which will be accompanied by an investment programme, detailing our priorities for the North. We know our version of the North’s Major Road Network is larger than the current version, and we look forward to working with our partners, DfT, and Highways England to develop the case for greater alignment of the two proposed networks.

“We also greatly welcome the Government’s response to addressing concerns about how public transport measures can be included if they support objectives in the Major Road Network. 

Proposals from the programme were launched in December 2017 and were under consultation until March this year.  

The MRN programme has five central objectives for the MRN : 

  • Reduce congestion – alleviating local and regional congestion, reducing traffic jams and bottlenecks. 
  • Support economic growth and rebalancing – supporting the delivery of the Industrial Strategy, contributing to a positive economic impact that is felt across the regions. 
  • Support housing delivery – unlocking land for new housing developments. 
  • Support all road users – recognising the needs of all users, including cyclists, pedestrians and disabled people. 
  • Support the Strategic Road Network (SRN) – complementing and supporting the existing SRN by creating a more resilient road network in England. 

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