A consistent approach to a newly-defined Major Road Network is essential if the planned step increase in highways investment in England is to provide the greatest boost to the economy across the country, according to a study by the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund.
Work under way for the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund in its Major Roads for the Future study has identified a network of important roads that drive regional economies.
These go well beyond the strategic road network – the focus of the government’s current investment strategy for roads through the new Highways England.
Addressing the first Highways UK event at London’s Excel Centre, David Quarmby (pictured), leading the study, argued that planning of the road network in a region must be done in a holistic way: the development needs for the motorways and trunk roads on the strategic road network must be assessed alongside the other major roads in the area for which local highway authorities are responsible. This does not require changing the ownership of those roads – but it does mean getting the processes right, putting in place a similar planning and funding regime for Highways England roads and for major roads on the local authority side.
Mr Quarmby said: “This would completely change the basis for funding the revenue and capital expenditure on some 3,500 miles of the most important local authority roads in England – and would address the yawning gap between the complex funding mechanisms and lower resources for those roads and for the Highways England network.”
The study envisages a Major Road Network some 80% larger than the strategic road network, bringing in key local authority routes cutting across country and providing better links around the conurbations; a map of the current proposal is at www.futureroadsengland.org. The study team are drawing on local knowledge to substantiate this emerging concept: they are working it up with several groups of local authorities and local economic partnerships – noting the key role the LEPs are set to play in focusing on what is needed to underpin economic growth in their areas.