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The UK government announced to Parliament yesterday plans to triple its spend over the next five years to £15bn on improving the capacity and condition of England’s congested major road network.

The projects announced as part of the scheme include £1.5bn to add an extra lane to key motorways linking the country’s biggest cities, improving one-third of the junctions on the south-east orbital M25 and the construction of a tunnel under Stonehenge.

The announcement by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, and published in the white paper Road Investment Strategy, has been welcomed by the Road Haulage Association and the Confederation of British Industry.

A map of the all the planned developments can be found here.

The Transport Secretary told Parliament: “Today I am setting out the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads programme for decades. It will dramatically improve our road network and unlock Britain’s economic potential.

“Roads are key to our nation’s prosperity. For too long they have suffered from under-investment.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett said: “For those operating in the road transport and logistics sector, time is money. Ours is an industry that is time critical and today’s announcement will come as good news to UK hauliers. The plans to tackle congestion and fix some of the most notorious and longstanding problem areas on the network are particularly welcome.”

CBI director-general John Cridland added: “This five-year strategy marks a significant milestone in our journey towards the delivery of much-needed upgrades to our road network, the arteries of our economy.

“It is essential now that we see a commitment from all sides to take this programme forward in the coming parliament, shifting our focus towards delivery.”

The UK’s road network spans nearly 250,000 miles and, according to the CBI, is “inherently linked” to the nation’s growth potential, providing a backbone to trade.

In an earlier study by the Highways Agency its then chairman, Alan Cook, calculated that in one incident alone the closure of the M25 at Junction 7 during rush hour had cost the economy £1.74m, or £62,000 an hour.

In fact, analysts estimate that traffic congestion costs the UK economy up to £8bn a year, a figure they say that could easily rise to £22bn by 2025 if solutions are not found.

And, according to Department of Transport projections, the volume of traffic across the UK’s road network is predicted to increase by 46% by 2035, resulting in delays that could lead to averaging waiting times increasing 50%.

However, the RHA claimsd it is not only the road network that so urgently needs investment, but the human infrastructure, and called for more incentives to attract new staff to the industry.

The RHA said it would ask the government for investment of £150m to provide training for 45,000 new drivers, which “the industry so desperately needs”.

It said: “The fact remains that this industry is now facing a critical driver shortage. While road improvements and road building are good news, they will have little effect on the industry that, quite literally, moves the economy forward if there are not enough HGV drivers to take advantage of the improvements. We need government to invest in training for drivers.

“This announcement makes it clear that the money is there – it makes sense that funding for training is made available.”

Indeed, according to the Freight Transport Association, 40% of drivers in the UK holding licences for 7.5 tonnes-plus are aged 50 and over, and according to its estimates this means that more than 250,000 drivers will be heading for retirement in the next 15 years.

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  • ReturnLoads

    December 03, 2014 at 9:06 am

    It is interesting to note that 2 thirds of the road network which is proposed to be improved are Coalition constituencies areas.