CBI wants independence for Highways Agency

The CBI has backed calls for the Highways Agency to become an independent body as it blasted the Government for not having a strategic vision for the UK road network.

Speaking at the Highways Term Maintenance Association’s annual conference this week, Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director-General, said investing in roads benefits the economy, underlining the significant return on investment for big infrastructure projects.

He said the strategic vision for our roads must start with a National Policy Statement on road and rail, and a full review of the Highways Agency.

Bentley called on the Government to unlock the full potential of private capital and innovative finance mechanisms, including tax-incremental financing (TIF) schemes, to support investment in our road network. He also called for a debate on road charging.

The speech comes a year after the publication of the CBI’s report Tackling congestion, driving growth – A new approach to roads policy.

Bentley said: “Instead of a strategic vision, we have a policy of make-do and mend. £200m of investment in tackling potholes is welcome and vital to fix roads up and down the country, but it will not deliver the network-wide improvements we need.

“The lack of vision is tying us to a roads policy that is tentative, unplanned and – in the view of CBI members – consistently falling short.

“The Government’s Plan for Growth, published with last month’s Budget, confirmed £30bn of transport investment over the next five years. We are pleased the Government has learnt from the long-term consequences of previous recessions and opted not to cut capital investment in transport completely.

“But the Government’s spending commitments need to be accompanied by a clear vision for the major road network. So we repeat our call for a national transport policy statement for our road and rail network to be delivered as a matter of urgency.

“We need to see an independent and strategic Highways Agency able to deliver better outcomes for road users and support private-sector investment in the road network. The Agency currently has limited strategic powers and no direct influence over its long-term objectives and funding.”

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