DFT and Highways England need to take decisive action before summer to deliver best value from Road Investment Strategy.
The National Audit Office has said that decisive action must be taken by the Department for Transport and Highways England, if they are to deliver the best results from their Road Investment Strategy, which covers five years between April 2015 and March 2020.
The investment is an important step towards better long-term planning of England’s strategic road network, but there are concerns over the speed at which it was put together.
In 2013 the Government committed £11.4Bn of capital funding to improving motorways and A-roads during road period 1 (2015-20), with £7.7Bn for 112 major enhancement projects and other projects designed to, for example, promote cycling, improve air quality and encourage economic growth. The remainder was allocated to the renewal of the existing network.
The Department aims to publish the Strategy before the May 2015 General Election, giving them just 17 months. As a result, projects were selected quickly without assurance of their value for money. In addition, 54 of the 112 projects are currently scheduled to start in 2019/20, which could cause significant disruption to motorists.
Highways England are now reviewing the portfolio of enhancement projects to improve value for money, and has so far identified 16 projects which present a risk to value for money. Options to bring forward start dates and delay projects is also being explored, to avoid the disruption that would be caused on the roads if multiple projects were to start in 2019-2020.
The NAO has recommended that the DfT and Highways England should agree an updated delivery plan for the remainder of the road period, including a clear statement setting out the impact of this updated plan on any work undertaken in the next road period.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today: “The Department and Highways England need to agree a more realistic and affordable plan if they are to provide optimal value from the Road Investment Strategy”.
Highways England has been working to address the risks to deliverability, affordability and value for money that were present in 2015, but we are now nearly two years into the 5-year road investment period. Decisive action needs to be taken before the updated delivery plan is published in the summer if shortcomings in the current strategy are not to be carried over into future road investment periods.”