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Trunk roads to be downgraded

TWO FIFTHS of England's trunk road network will be re-classified as local roads and transferred to local authorities, roads minister Lord Whitty confirmed this week.

The announcement follows five months of consultation with local authorities over proposals made in the integrated transport White Paper last July (NCE 19 November). It will redefine England's roads into a network of nationally important core routes and locally controlled non-core routes.

Whitty said the move would create 'the right balance' of planning and control on the road network and would not place any adverse financial burden on local authorities.

'Mechanisms for achieving this for routine and capital maintenance expenditure have been agreed with the Local Government Association,' he said.

He also promised 'at least an additional £25M,' for local road maintenance in each of the financial years 2000/1 and 2001/2. A further £12M of Highways Agency budget will be set aside for 'small improvement schemes on non- core routes'.

Local authority engineers gave a cautious welcome to the initiative. But County Surveyors Society chair of strategic transport and environmental planning, Martin Shaw, warned that no dates had yet been set for the transfer of roads.

'De-trunking orders are fairly cumbersome pieces of legislation and it wouldn't be sensible to do some of the smaller links in isolation. What is now required is a rolling programme of action,' he said.

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