£1.2bn is to be spent on the roads in the 2017 to 2018 financial year. The money is intended to improve roads, cut congestion and improve journey times. It includes £75m which councils can bid for to repair and maintain local infrastructure such as bridges, street lighting and rural roads. One of the schemes given the go ahead in this latest round of funding is a new junction off the M11, near Harlow in Essex. This will help to ensure the delivery of 15,000 homes and support continued growth in the local economy.
The £1.2bn for the 2017 to 2018 financial year includes £210m from the National Productivity Investment Fund. This Fund was announced in the Autumn Statement when the Chancellor committed to invest an extra £1.3bn improving the road network over the course of the Parliament. From this, £185m will be allocated in the 2017 to 2018 financial year to local highway authorities in England, outside London, to improve local highways and public transport networks with the remainder of the funding of £25m being available to help tackle some of the most dangerous A roads. £801m is to be shared across local highway authorities in England, outside London, to help improve the condition of local roads. The £75m Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund, offers local highway authorities in England, outside the capital, the opportunity to compete for funding to help repair and maintain local highway infrastructure.
In addition, multi-million pound plans intended to improve journeys for drivers on some of England’s busiest roads have been announced by Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling. Eight schemes designed to reduce congestion, improve safety and boost the economy in eastern England include: widening of the A12 between Chelmsford and the A120 junction in Essex; improvements on the A428 between Caxton Gibbet roundabout in Cambridgeshire and the Black Cat roundabout in Bedfordshire; and six major improvement schemes, including junctions and dualling, along the A47 route in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Over the next few months, public consultations will be held to give drivers, residents and businesses their chance to comment on the projects. The first, due to start on 23 January, covers the A12 proposals.
In the south west, plans to transform the A303 as part of a £2bn investment will see a tunnel at Stonehenge. Announced by Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, the upgrade is intended to develop the A303 corridor into a ‘high quality, high performing route’ linking the M3 in the south east and the M5 in the south west. The development is expected to improve journeys for millions of people. People are being invited to have their say on the proposal to upgrade a seven mile single carriageway stretch of the A303 near Stonehenge in Wiltshire into a dual carriageway. The single carriageway section of the road currently runs alongside the stones and the proposed option is to construct a 1.8 mile dual carriageway tunnel.
Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, said, ‘Roads play a significant part in everyday life linking people with jobs and businesses with customers, which is why this government is investing record amounts improving and maintaining highways across the country to help motorists. The funding we have allocated today is focused on relieving congestion and providing important upgrades to ensure our roads are fit for the future, helping to build an economy that works for everyone.’
Government takes pothole action
A Pothole Action Fund has been announced as part of the £1.2bn to be spent on the roads by the Government. The Fund is to see £70m shared across local highway authorities in England, outside London, which is expected to help repair over 1.3m potholes.
Included in this is a DfT trial in partnership with Thurrock and York Councils, which it believes could revolutionise the way potholes are identified and managed. A pothole spotter system, mounted to refuse collection vehicles, comprising of high definition cameras, integrated navigation system and intelligent software will be deployed to identify road surface problems before they become potholes.
The announcement of this follows the RAC’s recent report on potholes. The document said the number of pothole related breakdowns attended by its patrols from October to December 2016 gave rise to the first fourth quarter increase in this type of problem since 2013. During the period, the breakdown agency saw a 24% increase in the number of potential pothole-related call-outs, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels (3,962 in Q4 2015 to 4,903 in Q4 2016), attended by its patrols compared to the same period the previous year. Despite this figure, it says the overall picture revealed by its Pothole Index is surprisingly one of improvement. However, it believes this fourth quarter increase should be seen as a warning sign that the underlying condition of the UK’s roads is still ‘very poor’.
The RAC has recently worked with Street Repairs, which runs National Pothole Day (16 January), to create the RAC Report Pothole app. The application uses the GPS functionality of mobile phones to locate a pothole and deliver reports direct to the roads team of the responsible authority. Photographs can also be uploaded with these reports.