Our motorways and trunk roads play a vital role in the economic prosperity of this country. This is why this Government are committed to implementing a robust approach to identifying, prioritising and planning where vital investment is needed on this network, to help keep traffic moving and facilitate economic growth, housing and jobs.
In May 2012 we set out in our response to Alan Cook’s review of the strategic road network in England, plans for a new smarter approach to investment planning for this network, through route-based strategies. As part of this we made clear that these documents would see greater collaboration with local stakeholders through local authorities and local enterprise partnerships to determine the nature, need and timing of future investment that might be required on the network. Central to this would be the need to understand local economic growth aspirations and priorities to ensure that investment plans better balance local as well as national needs.
We further outlined that the Highways Agency would produce a small number of strategies to test this new approach and learn lessons before developing a wider programme. Today the Highways Agency is publishing the first three route-based strategies which cover; the M62 between Leeds and Manchester; the A12 between its junction with the M25 and A14 and the A120 east of Colchester; and the A1 West of Newcastle. These documents are available on the Highways Agency website.
We now intend to roll out route-based strategies across the entire network. The production of the first three strategies has generated some key lessons which have informed our thinking on how best to deliver the network wide programme of strategies and prioritise the outcomes.
The strategies will be developed in two stages. In the first stage the Highways Agency will work with local stakeholders to develop a uniform set of route-based strategies for all routes on the network. The strategies will identify performance issues on routes and future challenges, taking account of local growth challenges and priorities. The emphasis for this stage will be on establishing the evidence base as opposed to identifying solutions, which will take place in the next stage. It is intended that this first stage will be completed by spring 2014.
The Highways Agency and the Department will then use this evidence to prioritise and take forward a programme of work to identify indicative solutions which will cover operational, maintenance and if appropriate, road improvement schemes to inform investment plans for the next full spending review in 2015 and beyond. The Highways Agency will ensure they engage further with local stakeholders as the indicative solutions are developed and it is anticipated that this second stage will commence in spring 2014 and complete by March 2015.
Over the next few months the Highways Agency will be talking to key stakeholders to: seek further views and lessons learnt on the production of the first three strategies; share their plans on delivery of the wider programme; and to start to seek input to developing the evidence base for the wider programme of strategies. I have seen first hand the willingness of stakeholders to work with the Highways Agency to identify priorities and needs and do hope that they will continue to do so as the strategies are developed.
I am confident that this strong evidence-led approach will enable us to develop investment plans with a longer-term focus and that better balance national and local needs, create healthy pipelines of investment and crucially deliver investment where it is needed most to boost the economic growth and competiveness of this country.