The Department for Transport and Highways Agency has revealed a £15 billion ‘road investment strategy’ (RIS) to improve the condition of England’s roads.

The investment will fund a new tunnel under Stonehenge to better connect the South West and will add over 1,300 extra lane miles on motorways and trunk roads. The funds are expected to fund developments from 2015 until 2021.

The DfT hopes the investment will fix longstanding problem areas on the strategic road network and has long term plans to turn A-roads into expressways and to launch what it calls Smart Motorways.

The DfT has set aside £6bn to resurface 80% of England’s major road network.

According to the report, congestion is currently costing £2 billion each year. With traffic expected to grow steadily over the coming decades, this situation will worsen – the cost of congestion is set to rise to around £10 billion per year in lost time by 2040.

The plans include investment in over 100 new road schemes, 84 of which are new with the RIS.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Our Strategic Road Network (SRN or the network) has suffered from insufficient and inconsistent investment, and is currently unable to meet the social, economic and environmental aspirations we have as a nation.

“As we look to the future, the steady increase in population, the need to drive economic growth, the development of new technology and the availability of smart infrastructure will all serve to change what we need from our strategic roads.

“With this first Road Investment Strategy (RIS), we are firmly grasping the chance to deal with these opportunities and challenges to deliver a network that will underpin our nation’s prosperity and progress for generations to come.”

Smart motorways

The DfT’s aim is that by 2040 it will have transformed the busiest sections of England’s road network to enable improved safety levels, smoother traffic flow, and increased capacity.

Smart Motorways, which use technology to expand capacity and regulate the flow of traffic, will form the core of DfT’s long-term plans.

According to the new report: “Control will be returned to drivers, with personalised and predictive travel information leading to improved journeys at more reliable speeds.

“Intelligent vehicles, which communicate with the infrastructure and each other, are also likely to become the norm by 2040, and we will look to capitalise on their momentum to deliver a network that can fully exploit technological advances.”

The DfT plans to add 400 extra lane miles of Smart Motorways including a ‘smart spine’ linking London, Birmingham and the North West.

Industry comment

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “This strategy marks a significant milestone in our journey towards the delivery of much-needed upgrades to our existing road network, the arteries of our economy.

“I’ve been calling for a tunnel underneath Stonehenge as part of wider upgrades along the A303, a lifeline for businesses in the South West, so I am glad to see it getting the green light.

“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.”

RAC chief engineer David Bizley, said: “Today’s announcement is to be applauded as a victory for common sense and a clear blueprint for investment in England’s strategic road network which will deliver long-term benefits for all road users and for the UK economy.

“”The challenge for the vast majority of road users who will benefit from these schemes is to secure the commitment of the next government, to ensure that that they are delivered on time and within budget and that the strategy does not become just another set of empty promises.”

Full list of planned measures

New projects announced today include:

  • south west: a commitment of £2 billion to dual the entire A303 and A358 to the south west, including a tunnel at Stonehenge. This will allow roads users to drive on a dual carriageway from London to within 15 miles of Land’s End
  • north east: setting aside £290 million to complete the dualling of the A1 all the way from London to Ellingham, just 25 miles from the Scottish border, to make the Great North Road truly great again
  • north west and Yorkshire: completing the smart motorway along the entire length of the M62 from Manchester to Leeds, together with improvements to transpennine capacity from Manchester to Sheffield, representing the first increase in transpennine capacity since 1971
  • north west: committing to improve links to the Port of Liverpool, as part of a plan of 12 projects designed to improve access to major international gateways on which the nation’s international trade depends
  • south east: funding £350 million of improvements to the A27 along the south coast, tackling severe congestion at Arundel, Worthing and Lewes – consulting with the local community on options
  • east of England: investing £300 million to upgrade the east-west connection to Norfolk, by dualling sections of the A47 and improving its connections to the A1 and A11, building on the recently completed full dualling of the A11 from London to Norwich.
  • London and the south east: improving one-third of the junctions on the entire M25, to aid frustrated commuters stuck in traffic around the capital
  • midlands: improving the M42 to the east of Birmingham, improving the connectivity to Birmingham airport, the National Exhibition Centre, the local enterprise zone, and pave the way for the new High Speed 2 interchange station