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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

NH and DfT officials warn road budget is “very limited”

There’s a warning there will be “very limited” headroom for new roads projects during the next five-year road investment period as £11.5bn of work is years behind schedule.

The website and magazine New Civil Engineer reports that, when asked by the Transport Select Committee about how the rolling over of £11.5bn of work into RIS3 will affect the investment strategy for the next period, DfT permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly admitted:

“There are already a number of projects in what we call the RIS3 pipeline, these are very early development projects, but it is true that the headroom for new projects in RIS3 will be very limited.”

Furthermore it quotes DfT director general for roads, places and environment group Emma Ward expanding on this, saying: “The makeup of RIS3 may well look a bit different. It is likely that the headroom for enhancements projects is likely to be less. We also have an ageing network, so the importance of renewals and maintenance actually increases over time. So I would expect the balance of RIS3 to look somewhat different to RIS2.”

NCE points to a recent report from the National Audit Office which found that National Highways has overspent and under-built during this period, meaning that £11.5bn will be rolled over into RIS3 (2025-2030). This is mainly made up of National Highways’ biggest projects like Lower Thames Crossing and the A303 Stonhenge Tunnel. Legal challenges and inflationary cost pressures have also caused setbacks.

The report also quotes National Highways CEO Nick Harris as telling the Committee: “What is really, really important – certainly from my point of view – is we’re looking after an ageing set of infrastructure. More than 70% of our assets, as we get to the beginning of RIS3, are going to be more than 45 years old. So, bridges that were built in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as roads, are increasingly in need of renewal or replacement. And that will all be in the plan.”

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