As part of the government’s ongoing commitment to support an infrastructure revolution, the Transport Secretary made an announcement reaffirming pledges on the same day the Roads Minister announced that the £1.5Bn A14 improvement scheme will be completed a year ahead of schedule.
The Chancellor’s Pledges
As a key component of the wider infrastructure network, roads and motorways are subject to receive vast amounts of funding from the central government, delegated to them through the Department for Transport and Highways England, over the next five year period.
During his speech at the Conservative Party Conference, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, announced the formulation of a brand new Road Investment Strategy (RIS) which will reserve a sum of £29Bn for local road improvements across the UK over the course of the coming five years.
Specifically, he stated: “The full benefits of our infrastructure revolution may not be felt for some time, but the work must start here and now.
“Our roads are the arteries of our country. We will soon launch the new Roads Investment Strategy, with £29Bn committed for strategic and local roads over the next five years.
“And today we are getting the shovels out early on several important road projects, including upgrading the nearby M60 Simister Island, dualling the A66 Transpennine, and starting work on the A428 between Cambridge and Milton Keynes.”
The first wave of funding to be allocated to projects through the new Road Investment Strategy was witnessed through the Department for Transport issuing approximately £100M to four road improvement projects on the same day that the Chancellor made his speech.
These four projects included the £31M ‘Preston Western Distribution Scheme’ in Lancashire, the £25.5M ‘Stubbington Bypass Project’ in Hampshire, the £22.5M ‘White Hart Junction Project’ in Wiltshire, and the £22.9M ‘Wichelstowe Southern Access Scheme’, also in Wiltshire.
The next wave of funding is set to be provided to projects such as the ‘A66 Transpennine Dualling Project’, the ‘A46 Newark Project’ in Lincolnshire, the ‘M60 Simister Island Interchange Project’, and ‘A12 Project’ in Essex.
The Rise of Smart Motorways
Adding to this intense focus, by the British Government, upon roads and motorways as a part of the ensuing infrastructure revolution, is the current prominence of smart motorway construction.
Smart motorways have dominated road construction in recent years with this being blatant through them now operating over 236 miles of the M25, M1, M42/M40, M20, M6, M62, and M4/M5.
The M6 smart motorway was completed in the March of 2019, at a cost of £225M, providing the motorists which use the highway with ‘all-lane running’ sections, electronic signs displaying red Xs and variable speed limits, controlled flows of traffic, and emergency areas in which motorists can safely stop.
Such emergency areas have likewise been implemented at regular intervals along both the M1 and M62 in Yorkshire, with the specific locations of the emergency areas including: the M1 between Alfreton and the A616 Stocksbridge Bypass (at Junctions 28-35a), the M1 between Denby Dale and where the M1 and M62 meet (at Junctions 39-42), and on the M62 between Rothwell and Brighouse (at Junctions 25-30).
In terms of current projects, however, Highways England have now begun a programme of construction on the upcoming M4 smart motorway, which will be completed in the spring of 2022, and will feature 11 new bridges and a 32 mile stretch of highway between London and Reading in Berkshire.
The Recent Announcements
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, underlined the government’s prioritisation of an infrastructure revolution in his announcement: “This government is determined to deliver an infrastructure revolution. Today is all about highlighting the benefits of work taking place around the country, which is improving journeys for passengers, connecting communities and increasing productivity.
“This is just the start of our vision to modernise our infrastructure, invest in our transport and technology for the future, and level up and unite the whole of the UK.”
As this announcement was being made, the Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, declared that the largest road upgrade which has ever been undertaken in the UK, the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon dual carriageway, will be completed one year ahead of schedule.
This new 12 mile bypass, around the Cambridgeshire town of Huntingdon, will save drivers an average time of 20 minutes when travelling between the two locations and has cost the government an outstanding £1.5Bn to have completed.
The coinciding of the Secretary’s comments with the Roads Minister’s announcement makes it clear that the British Government is fixated on the prospect of an infrastructure revolution. This is likely a product of the downturns that are forecast for the country in a No-Deal Brexit scenario, and which have prompted a wave of preparation notices to both businesses and the general public.
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