The Highways Agency is to be turned into an independent public sector corporation with a £50Bn budget for roads investment over the next 15 years, according to government plans released for consultation.
Efficiency gains are to shave some £2.6Bn from costs over ten years and the new organisation – already being dubbed Network Road – will be overseen by a regulatory body – already being called Off Road. Government hopes to launch the new ‘Network Road' next year following consultation that will last until 20 December, with final plans announced in spring.
Roads minister Robert Goodwill said the planned investment was the biggest ever in the roads network. He said: “Efficiency savings are there to be made, but to secure these means changing how our motorways and trunk roads are managed and maintained.”
The Institution of Civil Engineers welcomed the news. Director General Nick Baveystock said the proposals could end the stop-start investment approach that has bedevilled the roads sector, which saw a 41% fall in road construction and maintenance last year, with a forecast 18% fall for 2013. He said: “The supply chain also has a key role to play now in preparing for the changes and building its capacity.”
The consultation paper says five year guaranteed investment plans would allow construction companies to reduce costs by £49M a year on capital maintenance and renewal and by another £57 M a year on resource management and operations.
The new organisation would remain accountable to Parliament and to the Secretary of State for Transport, with freedom in making operational decisions but not granted any more sweeping powers to determine the direction of roads policy by, for example, introducing tolls on existing roads.