The Government has said sub-national transport bodies (STBs) will play a key role in the regional management of its proposed major road network (MRN), but admitted it will need to consult on arrangements where no STB exists.
The Department for Transport’s (DfT) new Transport Investment Strategy, published on Wednesday, makes clear that the MRN will be a middle tier between the strategic road network (SRN) and the rest of the local road network, with responsibility remaining with existing highways authorities.
The document states: ‘We do not plan for sub-national transport bodies to become network operators or highway authorities.’ However, its also states that the DfT will ‘consult on how best to arrange the management of the MRN at the regional level, including providing a key role for sub-national transport bodies such as Transport for the North, Midlands Connect, and England’s Economic Heartland in tandem with local authorities’.
It adds: ‘We will also consult on arrangements for those areas where sub-national transport bodies are not formed.’
The Government’s proposed MRN differs from the proposal put forward last year in the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund report that first set out the MRN concept. That report envisaged the MRN as an integrated network that included both the SRN and local roads.
Last month, Transport for the North (TfN) published proposals for an MRN for the region consisting of nearly 5,000 miles of both SRN and local authority roads.
TfN chief executive David Brown said the Government’s planned MRN would help bodies like TfN and their local authorities better connect towns and cities and improve business links. He said: ‘This is a key part of the TfN’s strategy for improving the pan northern road network and is to be welcomed.’
He added: ‘We now need to study the [strategy] in much more detail before we give our full response.’
The DfT strategy suggests that the MRN could be approximately the same size as the exisiting SRN, although this will be also set out in proposals for consultation later this year. It points out that 4,400 mile SRN carries a third of England’s road traffic, while the busiest 4,400 miles of the local road network carry around 16% of all traffic.
It states: ‘The MRN would cover our busiest and most economically important local authority A roads.’
The strategy also states that the Government will consult on plans to allocate a proportion of the National Roads Fund – from the ring-fencing of Vehicle Excise Duty – to the MRN. Reports suggest this could be worth £1bn a year.