Transport secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed that the Government has agreed to Highways England’s plans to re-profile the current Road Investment Strategy (RIS), with some schemes brought forward, some delayed and six schemes shelved.
In a written Parliamentary statement, Mr Grayling referred to plans drawn up by Highways England ‘to ensure that the high level of road investment along key corridors of the network can be delivered in a way to minimise disruption and keep road users moving [and] mitigate delivery risks and achieve better value for money for the tax-payer’.
He told MPs: ‘This re-profiling and optimisation of delivery is consistent with Highways England’s remit and does not involve any cancellation of schemes.’
However, Highways England said some schemes ‘require further development to achieve an acceptable return on investment’ and that as a result six schemes ‘have been paused for further review and consideration as part of future RIS planning process’.
This echoes the recent process by which projects in Network Rail’s current five-year plan were pushed back into the next Control Period and suggests that these road schemes are unlikely to be completed within the current RIS.
The paused schemes include technology enhancements on some routes and the M53 Junctions 5-11 smart motorway scheme.
The Government-owned company said two further schemes ‘required rework to achieve value for money’ but that ‘changes in local development plans mean that these schemes can be progressed, albeit in the early stages of Road Period 2’.
Ten schemes are being brought forward, including smart motorway projects on the M56 and M6 and work on the M4 Heathrow slip roads.
Sixteen schemes are being ‘re-scheduled’ (delayed) with timings changing by between three and 24 months, including the M60 junctions 24-27 and junction 1-4 smart motorway and four junction improvement schemes on the M25.
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: ‘Our update is a sensible and responsible way to deliver major national investment in road infrastructure. It will keep our roads moving, deliver a lasting legacy for the country and ensure best value for money for the taxpayer.
‘Now, more than two years into delivery of a £15bn Government investment in motorways and major A roads, Highways England has already completed 18 major schemes, adding more than 190 lane miles of much-needed capacity to the nation’s roads.’
The fact that Highways England was revising its plans about what capital projects it will deliver by 2020 was revealed in a report published in February by regulator the Office of Rail and Road, which also disclosed that Highways England's forecast of capital costs were higher than its funding.
ORR said the new plans were expected to mean a better spread of when schemes start and should reduce disruption, but may mean some major improvement schemes are delayed or reviewed.