Scrap road schemes to grow the economy

Transport Action Network [1] has written to the new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, to suggest scrapping expensive and damaging road building projects, which will do little to boost the economy [2].

Examining the business cases for five flagship road schemes, TAN has discovered that most of them are classed as either “poor” or “low” value for money under Treasury rules, with a combined cost of £16 billion.

Cutting them could help balance the books after Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget and avoid huge cuts in public services. Even with the reversal of many tax cuts on Monday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates there’s still a hole of around £40bn in the UK budget [3].

Despite the evidence that new roads rarely deliver the benefits claimed [4], building more roads is one of the few remaining strands of Liz Truss’s growth agenda. Inflation in the construction sector and National Highways’ poor record of cost control makes roadbuilding commitments even more risky.

Many new roads would also cause great harm. Indeed, building a £2.5bn new road at Stonehenge as currently proposed would further tarnish the UK’s international reputation with the potential de-designation of Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site [5].

Chris Todd, Director of Transport Action Network, said:

“The economy is in trouble after Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget and growth plan. Scrapping just five white elephant road schemes would save £16bn, nearly half the budget deficit. That could prevent savage cuts in public services and help safeguard the most vulnerable.

“The Growth Plan risks growing traffic and congestion and little else. It will undermine productivity, while increasing carbon emissions. All this at a time when we need urgent reductions from the transport sector.

“It’s nothing short of scandalous to consider blowing billions of pounds on roads schemes that provide little long-term benefit. Investing the same money in active travel, local transport, rail freight and road maintenance would deliver far greater growth and help with levelling up. This reset is a chance to get things back on track and we’re urging the Chancellor to grasp this opportunity.”

– ENDS –

Notes to Editors:

[1] Transport Action Network was established to support local communities press for more sustainable transport in England and Wales. This involves fighting cuts to bus services, particularly in rural areas, and opposing damaging road schemes and large unsustainable developments.

[2] TAN’s letter to Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer (18 October, 2022)


[4] The end of the road? Challenging the road-building consensus, Transport for Quality of Life for CPRE, March 2017

Mutual causality in road network growth and economic development, Michael Iacano and David Levinson. (2015)

Beyond Transport Infrastructure, Lessons for the future from recent road projects, Transport for Quality of Life for CPRE and the Countryside Agency, July 2006

[5] For more information on the A303 Stonehenge scheme, see the Stonehenge Alliance website


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