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10.11.14

A £15bn ‘roads revolution’ under a Tory government – Cameron

David Cameron is set to announce a £15bn plan that would improve more than 100 of Britain’s problem roads by the end of the decade.

The prime minister will make the announcement today in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, where he will outline the Conservatives’ five-year roads investment strategy should they be returned to power after the general election.

Among the improvements expected to be pledged are upgrades to the A47 in the east of England, the A303 in the south-west, the A1 in the north and capacity increases on the A27 on the south coast.

Cameron will tell the CBI’s annual conference in London that the plans for the “biggest, boldest and most far-reaching” upgrade to roads in a generation will be announced in December’s autumn statement.

He will say that hundreds of miles of new lanes will be added to congested motorways and trunk roads across the country, and that only the Conservatives have the “guts” to spend money on major infrastructure projects across the country.

A lack of spending on the country’s road network has “for too long have held parts of our country back”, the PM will add.

One of the projects expected to be announced in the Autumn Statement is a tunnel to go under Stonehenge on the A303. Traffic jams are a common occurrence on the road but a finding a solution has been problematic due to its proximity to the landmark. National Trust, which owns land in the area, has told ministers it could be prepared to support a tunnel between 1.5 miles and 1.8 miles long.

“This will be nothing less than a roads revolution – one which will lead to quicker journey times, more jobs, and businesses boosted right across the country,” Cameron is expected to say.

Many of the projects go through marginal constituencies and seem designed to shore up Conservative support ahead of the general election.

The plans are opposed by green groups and transport campaigners. The Campaign for Better Transport has said that there are far better ways to ease congestion that the government has refused to consider. It adds that the government should “come up with genuine solutions rather than squander public money reviving dinosaur roads."

Chris Todd, roads campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "The road building schemes the government is so keen to talk up will trash protected areas and do nothing for the economy. It makes no sense to spend billions ploughing more lanes of traffic through our National Parks or desecrating irreplaceable historic sites like Stonehenge. These schemes will make people more dependent than ever on their cars, place greater costs on the NHS, while failing to tackle problems like the massive backlog of pot holes blighting local roads."

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher MP called the prime minister’s speech a “pre-election con trick” and said: “This desperate so-called announcement of promised road improvements includes no additional money and people simply won’t fall for it.”

Labour said the spending is the same as that announced in 2013. Dugher said: “Cameron should be judged on his record, not on a speech, and his record on road investment has been nothing but a chaotic series of u-turns.  Cutting investment, then promising to restore it after 2015. Cancelling road schemes, like the A14, then reinstating them.  And constantly failing to meet deadlines for the completion of improvements.”

(Image: c. Highways Agency)

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