Ministers unveil landmark roads investment

Ministers unveil landmark roads investment

The Government has unveiled a new £15 billion programme of road building.

Ministers are calling it the biggest roads development scheme for decades, while the RAC has hailed "a victory for common sense".

The announcement comes hot off the heels of the warning from the RAC Foundation that the country's roads will have to accommodate an anticipated 7 million extra motorists by 2035.

On Monday Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg revealed plans for 80 new road schemes while at Stonehenge - which will be home to one of the biggest projects in the highways overhaul.

The A303, adjacent to Wiltshire's ancient standing stones tourist attraction, will be diverted underneath the area in a bid to combat the notorious bottleneck.

Meanwhile a tenth of the new money (£1.5 billion) will be used to finance additional lanes on certain motorways.

Other improvement schemes include the north-east stretch of the A1, plus M25 junction upgrades to serve Sussex's A27. And t hose setting their journey planner to Liverpool could benefit from upgrades in several approach roads to Merseyside.

The announcement comes as experts writing in the RAC Foundation's report warn that the amount of traffic on the country's roads could balloon by 19.4%, to 43 million from 36 million by 2035.

Motorists in East England and Humberside and Yorkshire will be hardest hit, it predicts, with traffic increasing by a maximum of 40% by 2035.

The RAC welcomed the announcement of the road investment as a victory for common sense but warned the plans require the support of successive governments to ensure they don't get sidelined by another administration and become empty promises.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: "Today's announcement is to be applauded as a victory for common sense and a clear blueprint for investment in England's strategic road network which will deliver long-term benefits for all road users and for the UK economy.

"The strategy is primarily aimed at improving the existing network with only a small minority of schemes involving new routes and in this way, environmental impact is minimized. The announcement of 127 high-grade projects across England including 400 additional miles of Smart motorway and the upgrading of major stretches of the most heavily used A-routes to 'Expressway' status is great news. This will deliver significant improvements to journey times, reliability and user experience for businesses, commuters and family motorists.

"The challenge for the vast majority of road users who will benefit from these schemes is to secure the commitment of the next government, to ensure that that they are delivered on time and within budget and that the strategy does not become just another set of empty promises.

"Another concern for motorists must be that without matching the investment in the strategic network by an equally bold investment in local roads, strategic roads could become 'roads to nowhere'. With current pressure on budgets, local authorities cannot afford to deal with the £12 billion backlog in road maintenance and greater support from central government is essential.

"Local roads account for 97% of the road network and most journeys start and end on them and their maintenance is the number one transport spending priority for a majority of motorists, who contribute over £40 billion to the Treasury from motoring taxes every year."

Copyright Press Association 2014