National Highways’ dirty laundry to be aired in public

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ordered the Cabinet Office to publish Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA) reviews [1] of the £10 billion Lower Thames Crossing [2]. This is one of National Highways’ flagship schemes and its largest road project ever.

The order comes at the same time as the Office for Rail and Road, announced an unprecedented investigation into National Highways [3]. It also follows Transport Action Network (TAN) appealing National Highways’ refusal to publish the Full Business Cases for its road projects [4].

TAN’s director and founder Chris Todd said:

“It is about time National Highways’ secretive ways were exposed to the sunlight, rather than being kept hidden in the shadows. The fact that there are so many issues surrounding its ways of working shows that there is something rotten at the heart of National Highways. When they are spending billions of pounds of public money they should be fully transparent and held publicly accountable for their actions.

“We have been battling for years against these expensive road schemes, which provide little or no economic benefit. They can often cause great social and environmental harm, undermining wider Government objectives. The current system is clearly broken. We hope that the publication of these documents and a thorough investigation by the ORR will lead to a complete overhaul of National Highways. This cannot come soon enough.”

Thames Crossing Action Group Chair, Laura Blake said:

“We feel it is in the public interest to know what is in these reviews of the LTC. Particularly when they are being relied upon in the important decision making process by Government. The processes are supposed to offer transparency and guidance to Ministers who are making decisions about spending significant amounts of public money. Yet this is clearly not the case at present. Evidence shows that the proposed LTC fails to meet scheme objectives, and would be hugely destructive and harmful. Proper scrutiny and consideration is essential when so much is at stake.”

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Notes to Editors

[1] The ICO Decision Letter can be viewed on the Thames Crossing Action Group website. All projects in the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) are subjected to review by the Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA) who are part of the Cabinet Office. Laura Blake, Chair of the Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG), asked the IPA to “provide copies of the IPA stage gate assessment review in November 2021 and also the follow-up IPA independent peer review in June 2022 as detailed in the Lower Thames Crossing Accounting Officer Assessment”, which was refused by the Cabinet Office. Ricardo Gama of Leigh Day solicitors, acting for TCAG, appealed to the ICO who yesterday ordered the Cabinet Office to publish the IPA’s reviews of the controversial project.

[2] The £10 billion Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) is the largest road scheme ever proposed, including Britain’s longest road tunnel (2.6 miles) and over 14 miles of Smart Motorway standard roads. It is extremely controversial, being opposed by the Thames Crossing Action Group and will result in over 6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. It is rated as “Low” value for money according to Treasury guidelines, but with rising costs its value is likely to fall further. In the IPA’s Annual Report 2022-23 the LTC was given an Amber rating in its Delivery Confidence Assessment, meaning “significant issues already exist, requiring management attention”. It has recently concluded its 6-month examination, and a decision on its DCO planning consent is expected in June 2024.

[3] On 14 February, the regulator for National Highways, the Office for Rail and Road (ORR), announced an unprecedented investigation into the performance of National Highways. In its letter to NH, the ORR said the investigation would include whether NH is complying with the duty in its Licence to provide data and information on its performance.

[4] On 14 February 2024 TAN requested an internal review of National Highways’ refusal to publish the Full Business Cases of 18 major road schemes.



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