Latest Public Sector News

16.07.13

£28bn for public Highways Agency

The Highways Agency will be turned into a public company, to use £28bn for road building, the Government has announced.

A green paper published today sets out plans to guarantee funding over six years, making the agency into a Network Rail-style company. An extra £500m will be pledged to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles.

The DfT has included a focus on cutting congestion and investing in environmental safe-guards such as tunneling and noise barriers, but campaign groups have warned of the impact on the countryside.

Prospective road building includes 221 extra lane miles of managed motorways and 52 major projects the Highways Agency has highlighted for construction.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Today's changes will bring an end to the short-term thinking that has blighted investment in England's roads so that we can deliver the infrastructure our economy needs.”

But Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Anyone expecting to see an army of workmen wielding shovels on the streets tomorrow is likely to be disappointed. More broadly we welcome the recognition that our roads have been woefully underfunded for decades.

“By saying these latest plans are fully funded, ministers are effectively guaranteeing to spend more of the £33bn they collect each year in fuel duty and vehicle excise duty on road infrastructure – without a fundamental change in the way motorists pay tax such as through the introduction of widescale tolling.”

Shadow transport secretary, Maria Eagle, said: “Moving to a longer funding settlement for the Highways Agency doesn't require it to be turned into a company nor require legislation.

“Considering the Government's failure to translate their promises into action over the past three years, ministers must explain how this reorganisation will not become yet another distraction from the task of fixing Britain's broken roads.”

And Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “People will be shocked by the scale of the environmental vandalism that the government is planning. Smothering Tarmac across our best loved and most visited countryside will not solve traffic problems or create jobs.”

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