Government launches transport investment plan

Government launches transport investment plan

Local roads are set to benefit from a share in a multi-billion pound improvement fund as part of a new investment strategy unveiled by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

The Transport Investment Strategy sets out the government’s new long-term approach for infrastructure spending and features the proposed creation of a new major road network, which would see a share of the annual National Road Fund, funded by Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), given to local authorities to improve or replace the most important A roads under their management.

Reports suggest up to £1bn a year will be be ring-fenced from the near £6bn raised annually from vehicle excise duty.

The government said the plans will improve productivity and connectivity of towns and cities across the country — tackling bottlenecks and traffic jams for road users, and “taking away the misery of lorries and through-traffic thundering through rural villages on main roads”.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Getting transport spending right is crucial for the country’s future. The transport investment strategy sets out a blueprint for how we can harness the power of transport investment to drive balanced economic growth, unlock new housing projects, and support the government’s modern industrial strategy.

“This government is taking the big transport decisions for Britain’s future like HS2 and Heathrow, while delivering the biggest investment in roads and rail for a generation.

“At the heart of our approach is a plan to make transport work for the people who use it and for the wider economy.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) broadly welcomed the government’s new plans but warned “the devil will be in the detail.” RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said: “This comes as good news for all road users. The proposal of a new major road network across the entire UK will reduce journey times between towns and cities across the country and will bring long awaited relief to those whose lives are disrupted by HGV traffic on main roads in rural areas.

“According to a study carried out last year, the UK ranked as the 4th most congested developed country in the world and the 3rd most congested in Europe.

“Unlike the many thousands of motorists that use the road network each day as a means of going to and from work, the UKs roads and motorways are a haulier’s workplace. Lorries move 85% of the UK economy, so time is money. Today’s 44-tonne HGV does eight miles to the gallon and typically covers 73,000 miles per annum. This means that every penny counts – it has to.”

He added: “We need to know the timescale for the improvements – many of which will mean major civil engineering projects. These works must be completed on time. The agony of using the UK road network must not be prolonged any longer than necessary.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said the Government’s new transport investment plan is good news for the sector but more investment is needed to upgrade the road network. 

FTA’s Head of National and Regional Policy Christopher Snelling said: “FTA believes that the government focus on investing in roads that will deliver improved performance, economic growth and reduce bottlenecks is correct. Enhanced road infrastructure can only make Britain’s logistics network and business dealings more efficient. 

“Major local authority roads form a crucial part of the road network so our members welcome the news that the new fund can be allocated to support a wider range of projects. However, this extension of use will undoubtedly mean greater calls on one pot of money, so the Government will need to support infrastructure investment beyond just that provided by VED.” 

The announcement focuses on road spending but the FTA said the approach affects all aspects of transport expenditure. 

Mr Snelling added: “To help deliver the industrial and trading success the UK wants for the future, the Government needs to deliver a flexible transport network as a whole, not just roads. This must mean continued investment in rail infrastructure and also the delivery of the expansion of Heathrow. It is welcome that these areas will also be addressed with this approach.”

The British Ports Association’s Chief Executive, Richard Ballantyne, also welcomed the aspiration to create a new major road network but called for ports to be prioritised in regional and national projects.

He said: “The Strategy rightly recognises the importance of our ports to the UK’s global competitiveness and future prosperity for national and regional economies. The report also highlights the significant levels of investment that ports have made in their own facilities independently of Government. The challenge now is for the funding to be allocated towards linking ports with the national road and rail networks and also to ensure the entire transport network has the capacity to safeguard UK competitiveness. As local authorities are to given this additional funding, we will be pressing for appropriate consideration of port connectivity and freight priorities to feature in their regional strategies.”

He continued: “Alongside this Strategy it is important that the Government’s Industrial Strategy incorporates ports into future national and regional planning and highlights them as vital gateways and clusters of economic activity. Freight spending is often overlooked for big ticket passenger schemes. We are calling for a new freight advisory group of stakeholders to feed into and inform Government transport and investment strategies and also the work of the National Infrastructure Commission.”