Road Investment Strategy must prioritise maintenance, not new roads

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) is expected to publish this week its draft third Road Investment Strategy (RIS3), setting out priorities and an outline budget for National Highways for 2025-2030.

Transport Action Network (TAN) has called for the draft RIS3 to prioritise maintenance of the existing Strategic Road Network (SRN, motorways and the largest A roads), environmental and safety improvements, and climate adaptation, rather than expensive capacity enhancements.

Chris Todd, TAN’s Director, said:

“The last road investment strategy apportioned over half its budget to expensive, white elephant road schemes like A303 Stonehenge and Lower Thames Crossing. These schemes take us backwards on tackling climate change and steal money away from urgently needed maintenance and climate adaptation.

“This time the DfT needs to dramatically rethink its approach to the strategic road network. It should move away from its failed strategy of trying to reduce congestion by building bigger roads which remains as elusive and unsuccessful as ever. It now needs to focus on managing risk, by focussing on climate adaptation, rectifying its appalling record on water pollution, and tackling safety at a national scale. This should be small scale and quick to implement changes to rapidly drive down traffic incidences and personal injury across the whole network, not just through a few large schemes. We also want to see a significant boost to Designated funds to address the social and environmental issues that the network has caused historically.”

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Notes to Editors

[1] Every five years the Department for Transport sets out a five-year spending plan for National Highways to manage the Strategic Roads Network (SRN). This is called the Roads Investment Strategy (RIS). The DfT will be publishing the draft of the third version, RIS3, covering the period 2025-2030, in the week commencing 20 May. The DfT consulted on its proposals in June-July 2023. For more information, see TAN’s response to the RIS3 consultation.

[2] In the second Roads Investment Strategy, RIS2, the total settlement was £27.4 billion for 2020-2025 (later reduced in the Spending Review of October 2021 to £24 billion). Over half the RIS2 budget was allocated to ‘capital enhancements’ (new roads) at £14.1 billion. Just £345 million was allocated to the Environment and Wellbeing part of the Designated Funds in RIS2, which is just under 1.3% of the entire RIS2 allocation, whilst the safety fund received just £140 million, or £0.5%. It is unclear how much was spent on maintenance, as it all came under the combined budget heading of ‘Operations, maintenance, renewals and business costs’, totalling just under £12 billion. However, this amount was smaller than that spent on capital enhancements (new roads).

[3] After the publication of the draft RIS3, the next steps are for National Highways to produce a draft Strategic Business Plan, based on the DfT’s draft RIS3. Then the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) produces an Efficiency Review. After that, it is expected that the DfT will produce the final RIS3, with a detailed budget breakdown and a list of road schemes National Highways will progress during the RIS3 period.


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