Highways England unveils detailed Delivery Plan for £11bn of roads spending - updated

Highways England has taken its first bow ahead of its official launch on 1 April, when it unveiled a detailed Delivery Plan. Highways England is the new government owned company that will replace the Highways Agency.

The plan explained how Highways England will spend the £11bn of the £15bn roads settlement to 2021  currently allocated to improving and upgrading the strategic road network.

"We are modernising the motorway network," said chief executive Graham Dalton. "We are fully funded for all the capital investment schemes and for the first time we have a five year plan and can build new but can also go back and improve what we have already got."

Highways England's five year Delivery Plan to 2020 sits besides Department for Transport's Roads Investment Strategy. The RIS lasts for six years until 2021. HE will spend £11bn over the five year plan but government signed up for a six year investment via the RIS to create a "rollover year" and iron out any peaks and troughs in spending between delivery plan periods so the supply chain could plan for a smooth investment curve. 

Over the first five years of operation, Highways England’s intention is to invest in 112 major improvements, including 15 smart motorway projects providing 280 miles of capacity and resurfacing the majority of the network. New cycle ways and facilities – over 200 of them – are part of the work programme along with safety schemes to cut road deaths and injuries by 40% compared to 2010. 

Investment rises from £1.782bn in 2015/16 to £1.8267bn, £2.241bn, 2.527bn, £2.974bn and £3.658bn over the five years. Renewals spend as part of that total starts at £718M and rises to £744M by 2019/20.

"As well as delivering the biggest investment in major roads since the 1970s, there will be fundamental changes to the way motorways and major A roads are maintained and operated."  - Dalton        

The plan will described how Highways England will:

  • develop a new expressway standard for the busiest A roads to provide a similar standard of journey as expected on motorways with improved, grade separated junctions, emergency refuge bays and technology to keep traffic moving and reduce delays.
  • organise improvement and maintenance work so it minimises disruption and keeps, on average, at least 97% of the road network open
  • work with industry on emerging vehicle technology and cultivate a new and more mature safety culture that encourages good driver behaviour resulting in safer roads, vehicles and people.
  • take a comprehensive approach to the environment: investing £225M on flood resilience schemes, encouraging biodiversity by protecting and restoring nature areas and resurfacing that tackles noise pollution using low-noise surfacing at 1,150 locations
  • trial innovative technology on the network, such as wireless power transfer to electric/hybrid vehicles, wireless internet on roads in the south east and acoustic incident detection systems to improve tunnel safety even further.
  • Dalton said: The launch of Highways England is an incredibly significant moment for those who rely on England's motorways and A roads.

“As well as delivering the biggest investment in major roads since the 1970s, there will be fundamental changes to the way motorways and major A roads are maintained and operated. We will be focusing on customers, providing better travel information before and during journeys, improving safety and reducing the impact of roadworks.”

Dalton is leaving the organisation in the summer and the search is on for a new chief executive.

Highways England will be responsible for 4,300 miles of network, including 16,000 structures, which connect communities and its customers, such as logistics and freight companies, industries, walkers, cyclists and equestrians, who travel 85 billion miles every year.

The Delivery Plan is the detailed response to the Government’s Road Investment Strategy, a long-term approach to improving England’s major roads. The claim is that for every £1 spent there will be £4 in wider benefits to the economy.

It shows how success will be measured against the performance specification set by government and how the organisation will be transformed to perform more efficiently and deliver five strategic outcomes. These are: supporting economic growth, a safe and serviceable network, a more free-flowing network, an improved environment and a more accessible and integrated network.

“Highways England is the organisation that will meet this challenge. We are committed to a strategic road network in England that is far safer, more free-flowing and more integrated and supports economic growth across the country,” Dalton said.

Oversight of Highways England will come from the Office of Rail and Road, formerly Office of Rail Regulation, who will monitor the performance and efficiency of the company and Transport Focus who will act as the watchdog for road users. 

A dedicated website,, has been launched to explain how and why the Highways Agency is transforming into Highways England. The site includes an introductory animation, as well as information about the organisation’s future plans.   

Read DfT roads director John Dowie on "the end of the beginning" 




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