Call for shake up of English major roads

Revenue collected from a new strategic roads fund should also be spent on the upkeep of major routes managed by local authorities, two established highway consultants say today.

David Quarmby (pictured) and Phil Carey, authors of the study ‘A Major Road Network for England’ suggest there could be a £1.5Bn annual surplus in the new National Roads Fund to provide for local authority major roads.

From 2020 Highways England is expected to receive over £5Bn a year from the new fund. But if the monies were also used to part fund local authority major roads, the study says, these networks would work much more effectively. It adds that the extra money would free up resources for local authorities to tackle the deteriorating condition of minor roads.

Today’s report warns that thousands of kilometres of England’s more important A roads are at risk of not being able to support regional economies. It identifies 5800km of council controlled A roads which deserve special recognition, but risk losing out as budgets continue to be squeezed.

The authors suggest putting these local authority A roads alongside Highways England’s strategic road network to create a 12,900km ‘Major Road Network’ which, they say, will be more fit for purpose to serve the country’s population. But they stop short of calling for the transfer of control of these additional A roads to Highways England.

Lead author David Quarmby said: “There is a strong argument for the economic importance of many more miles of A road being acknowledged, while recognising the value of them remaining under local control. If they are given premier league status they should have access to premier league planning, funding and continuity.” 

Co-author Phil Carey added: “The strategic road network does not comprise all the roads that matter to support regional economies.

“The local authority major roads we have identified need funding certainty in line with the strategic road network.” 

The report has been supported by the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund. Chair David Hutchinson said: “We welcome the author’s innovative idea of a Major Road Network and believe it merits serious consideration by central and local government and by the bodies responsible for planning and operating our important highways.”

CIHT chief executive Sue Percy said: “We welcome this report and the findings being presented. CIHT is looking forward to continuing to work with the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund in support of this important initiative that looks at the status of the local road network.

“CIHT Council has met with David Quarmby to discuss this project and has offered to provide assistance in promoting the issues raised to wider stakeholders.”

The Department for Transport will consider the findings of the report, according to a spokesman. He said: “We are delivering £15Bn of improvements to our roads – the biggest investment in a generation. This is on top of a record £6Bn for maintaining local roads, £7Bn for the Local Growth Fund, £1.25Bn for local transport schemes and a further £250M to help councils tackle road issues in their areas. All this investment is leading to faster, safer and better journeys for motorists.”

To read the full report visit futureroadsengland.org