Roads Minister Robert Goodwill has called on the industry to get ready for a large increase in work ahead of the government’s biggest investment in the road network since the 1970s.
The government is tripling funding on the road network over the next eight years with more than £24 billion to be spent on upgrading and improving the network until 2021.
By the end of the next Parliament, the government will be spending £3 billion each year on improvements and maintenance for the strategic network alone. This locked-in funding commitment will support nearly 30,000 new jobs across the construction sector and at the same time deliver a safer, more sustainable road network that is fit for the 21st century and beyond.
Speaking at the Institution of Civil Engineers, Roads Minister Robert Goodwill (pictured) said: “Funding certainty is critical to the construction industry in planning for the future and that is exactly what the government has delivered – with £24 billion secure investment over six years and £50 billion for the strategic road network over the next 15 years. However, we need to make sure everyone is ready to deliver the massive programme of investment that we need to keep Britain’s roads moving.
“To do that, we need to make sure we have the right people and equipment in place to deliver the 53 road schemes in preparation right now, plus the next generation of improvements over the next seven years. This means taking on more apprentices and making sure suppliers have the capacity to deal with the increase in demand. If we get this right, this will provide road users with a high performing network that can cope with the expected 43% increase in traffic over the coming decades that will help boost economy growth and deliver more efficient roads for motorists.”
Along with investing £10.7billion in major improvements for strategic roads from 2015 to 2020/21, the government is also investing £6.1 billion in resurfacing 80% of the strategic network, with another £6 billion being spent on tackling potholes on local authority roads. The funding announced in the 2013 Spending Review along with the Department for Transport’s ‘Action for Roads’ – a command paper that sets out the long-term vision for the road network from 2015 – will provide contractors with the security to make commercial decisions based on long-term funding.
The reforms will also see the Highways Agency turned into a government-owned company. Road users are set to benefit from a more effective road network and will have a greater say in how their roads operate, with tax payers expected to benefit from savings of at least £2.6 billion over the next 10 years. The consultation on the changes to the Highways Agency has now closed and a response will be published in the near future.
Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) president, Geoff French, said: “Measures to enable the Highways Agency and supply chain to break away from the inefficient stop/start investment that has plagued the management of our roads are very welcome. Industry must now prepare to step up and respond to the greater visibility and funding certainty, by investing more in developing its people and capabilities. I have every confidence it is ready to respond to this opportunity and ICE, with other industry bodies, is working to catalyse and coordinate efforts to drive such a response. Government can also help by reinforcing its commitment to these reforms – not least by ensuring the legislation that underpins these changes is introduced swiftly.”
Alan Mackenzie, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, said: “It’s very encouraging that government is engaging with the supply chain in this way, showing a commitment to delivering the promised, and much needed, investment in road infrastructure. For those of us at the start of the supply chain, it’s critical that we’re involved in this process and have a clear view of issues that might affect the workflow beyond delivery of the raw materials we produce.
“Following years of downsizing, our industry needs clear and firm commitment to this investment programme to give companies the confidence they need to make significant investments in specialist staff, and production and delivery mechanisms. We’re looking for reassurance that legislation to protect the forthcoming government investment will be in place before the next general election.”