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Business West welcomes proposed new-look Highways Agency

PUBLISHED: 14:50 18 July 2013 | UPDATED: 14:50 18 July 2013

In a Government report published on 17 July, Action for roads: a network for the 21st century, Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, said: “We will reform the Highways Agency, giving it the flexibility and vision it needs to be the world’s leading highways operator. More certainty, clearer instructions and less political interference will mean greater efficiency and a better service to motorists and the environment.”

According to the report, from 2015 onwards the Highways Agency will have long-term funding certainty on its capital programme and resource maintenance, initially to 2021. It will also introduce a Roads Investment Strategy (RIS), setting out plans for construction and maintenance to 2021 and beyond, as well as performance criteria. It will also cover expectations for the operation and management of the network.

In June 2013, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced an investment of £15.1 billion in the country’s strategic roads by 2021 to counter the effects of past underinvestment, adding a further 221 lane miles of extra capacity to the busiest motorways.

Commenting on the Transport Secretary’s announcement of reforms, Phil Smith, Managing Director of Business West, said: “Business growth requires a road network that’s well maintained, congestion free and upgraded where necessary. For too long, the Highways Agency has been unable to deliver on these requirements.

“So we welcome the announcement that the Highways Agency is to become a public corporation, managed in a more business-like fashion, and that it will have the same sort of five-year funding certainty that has helped to improve the rail network in recent years.

“Business has had enough of ‘stop-start Britain’. We’ll be watching closely to ensure that these changes enable companies and their employees to move full speed ahead on a better national road network. We will also urge ministers to bring forward some of the new road maintenance spending they’ve promised after 2015, as urgent action to maintain our roads is required now.

“And, we will be looking with interest to see how much of this funding comes to the West Country and what difference it will make to improve connections between our major urban areas of Bristol, Bath, Swindon, Gloucester and Cheltenham.”

Four major transport schemes get go-ahead

Gloucestershire Local Transport Board has announced its decision to fund four multi million pound schemes in the country: A40 bus lane at Benhall, Cheltenham, A40 Over roundabout and Highnam Lodge, A40 bus corridor to the west of Cheltenham and Cheltenham Spa station.

In total 14 schemes were put forward by nine scheme promoters. The four selected schemes will now be put forward to potentially secure between £10 million and £20 million of transport improvements for Gloucestershire. The four schemes could get the go ahead from 2015.

Cllr Vernon Smith, Chair of the Gloucestershire Local Transport Board, said, “The schemes put forward would make a real difference to Gloucestershire, reducing journey times and improving local transport, helping to support and protect local jobs.”

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