Climate fears halt 25 billion road investment programme

A £25 billion plan to expand motorways and A-roads over the next five years has been shelved.

A multi-billion road building plan – including proposals to roll out controversial smart motorways – has been put on hold over climate change concerns, The Times has learnt.

The £25 billion strategy to expand motorways and major A-roads over the next five years, has been shelved until later in the spring or even early summer.

The move is made after the Court of Appeal quashed government policy over the expansion of Heathrow on the grounds that it failed to take account of the UK’s climate change commitments.

Environmental groups said that the judgment would have a major bearing on all infrastructure projects including the upgrade of other airports and major road building schemes.

It was widely assumed that the new “road investment strategy” would bepublished alongside this week’s budget. The plan to expand more than 100 major roads is due to start on April 1 and run until March 2025. The first five-year plan will expire at the end of this month.

However, the Department for Transport is understood to have now pulled the document subject to a reappraisal in light of the Heathrow judgment. It is now unlikely to be published for several months and could lead to some road schemes being scrapped altogether.

Last week, the government admitted it was shelving its infrastructure strategy – a £100 billion 30-year plan to improve rail, energy and housing sectors.

The latest move follows a warning by Transport Action Network, a group lobbying for green transport in England and Wales, that the proposed road investment document was flawed.

In a letter last week to Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, the group said that the Department for Transport had “received incorrect legal advice about climate policy and it is not credible to suggest this only had an impact on its aviation policy”.

The network said that road and rail now accounted for 23 per cent.

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