Major Road Network proposals gaining traction

The co-authors of the Rees Jeffrey’s Report ‘A Major Road Network for England’ are increasingly optimistic that the study’s proposals will be taken forward.

The report calls for the recognition of an 8,000-mile Major Road Network (MRN) that includes the 4,200 miles of the strategic road network (SRN) of motorways and trunk roads run by Highways England, and a further 3,800 miles of strategic local authority-controlled A-roads.

The report appeals that both MRN and SRN should get equal recognition, despite the Government already committing to a £15 billion five-year plan of investment in the SRN.

Phil Carey (pictured left) told Highways Magazine: “David (Quarmby) and I have had several discussions recently with the Department for Transport (DfT) and the other key players to maintain the MRN concept’s momentum.”

Carey explained that both himself and co-author Quarmby have now completed the study as a Rees Jeffreys Road Fund commission.

He continued: “David is retiring but I will be helping Rees Jeffreys maintain a continuing interest as the study’s proposals are taken forward.”

We understand from David Quarmby and Phil Carey that key stakeholders have agreed the MRN approach provides a coherent analytical basis for bringing greater planning and financial stability to the vital asset of local authorities’ major roads. It focuses attention on how the key principles of the regime already now in place for Highways England could be extended to local roads. Consensus is building around the MRN needing a framework of outcomes and the processes needed to achieve them.

Whilst the Report suggests funding from the National Road Fund be made available to both strategic roads and local roads, Carey told Highways that this should not be seen as a ‘silver bullet’. “This should not replace the need for broader reform of local road funding. Possible new funding instruments led by LEP consortia or the sub-national transport bodies (STBs) should also be explored.”

Both Carey and Quarmby identify key issues needing to be resolved around:

  • The balance between local determination and consistent application of underlying principles;
  • How to turn thinking around standards and fitness for purpose into practical targets and mechanisms;
  • The best mix of funding sources for the MRN.

Concluding, the co-authors note that DfT is considering these issues carefully. They hope to hear more on its emerging thinking in the months ahead.

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