Since Highways England became a Government Company in 2015 we have completed 18 schemes on or ahead of schedule and have a further 15 major projects currently in construction.
Within the £15bn Road Investment Strategy we have some specific designated funds. One is the £100m Growth and Housing Fund which provides money for the cost of road improvements that are needed for new developments.
This designated fund is part of Highways England's award-winning "The Road to Growth" strategic economic growth plan. We were pleased when the Plan received national recognition from the Institute of Economic Development (IED), in their 2017 annual awards, for having the "greatest economic impact".
To date the fund has made contributions of over £60 million to 16 improvements to unlock sites for over 30,000 new homes and more than 40,000 jobs around Swindon, Exeter, Weston Super Mare, Darlington, Scunthorpe, Grantham, Warrington, Honiton, Derby, Foxdenton (Oldham), Taunton, Durham, Daventry, Leicester and Southampton.
So why am I talking about what we've achieved, so far? Because, on 13 December we reached a major milestone and published our first ever Strategic Road Network (SRN) Initial Report.
The report sets out our advice to government about where we believe priorities should be focused for the second road period, which runs between 2020 and 2025, and the long term future of our network.
The report does not recommend specific schemes. It shows how we have developed our thinking on investment priorities across the country. We want to hear what people think, from the road users, our supply chain to our key stakeholders, like road transport bodies, Transport Focus and the Office of Road and Rail (ORR). We want to know if these are the right areas to focus on for the second road investment period.
The full report is published here so please take time to read it.
In summary, our findings show – and these are our aspirations:
- We must continue to focus on our operations, maintenance and renewals: These activities are essential for a safe, reliable and resilient network and to deliver the service our customers expect.
- Our Smart Motorways should come to be considered the core of the network: These are enhancing capacity between our major cities and our advice is to continue this through the second Road Period and to approach them as a key step in developing a connected network over the long term.
- Rollout expressways: Driving forward the ambition from the first Road Investment Strategy to develop an expressway capable network.
- Transformational investments need to be undertaken: It is clear that, while taking advantage of new technologies on existing roads is important, there are places where we need to implement the next generation of transformational schemes.
- Our investment programme must be balanced in order to deliver small and medium schemes: Highways England wants to ensure that there is sufficient funding for medium and small-sized schemes that address the most important regional and local priorities.
- Working with our stakeholders to redefine our Designated Funds to increase their reach: We hope that overall level of funding will continue for Designated Funds in RIS2 and would like to work with our stakeholders to improve their focus, impact and delivery.
- Preparing for the future: We need to continue to develop the organisation's capability and efficiency to deliver on the future needs of the Strategic Road Network.
The SRN initial report forms part of the Department for Transport's public consultation on future funding on the SRN. This started on 13 December 2017 and runs until Wednesday 7 February 2018.
We want you and your organisation to take part as it is vitally important that your views continue to inform investment decisions.
Please drive carefully out there this winter, and be prepared before you travel. We're keeping the roads as free from ice and snow as we can, and lifting roadworks this Christmas to make those journeys a bit easier.
Please drive carefully out there this winter, and be prepared before you travel.
Be safe, and a happy new year to you all.