Environment, growth and customers key to Road Investment Strategy & vision to 2040

Government’s vision for the nation's strategic road network to 2040 sees more smart motorways, new Expressways and £900M ringfenced to reduce impact on communities. 

Smart motorways and new Expressways will form the backbone of the nation’s strategic road network with a new emphasis placed on being a better neighbour, according to the government’s new Road Investment Strategy announced to Parliament today by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.. 

The strategy sets out plans to spend over £15bn in the six years to 2020/21 with 84 new schemes added to the programme announced in 2013 and including £900M for so-called cross cutting improvements to reduce the impact of the existing network on communities.

Expressways - new class of highway:

Generally dual carriage and built “to be safe and resilient to delay” with grade separated junctions to provide a consistent “motorway quality journey”.

In its first ever long term plan for developing the nation’s highways network, the DfT has set out what it describes as a “deliberately ambitious” and demanding vision for the evolving Highways Agency to deliver in its first five year ”Road Period” .

"Today I am setting out the biggest, boldest and most far-reaching roads programme for decades," said McLoughlin. "It will dramatically improve our road network and unlock Britain’s economic potential. Roads are key to our nation’s prosperity. For too long they have suffered from under-investment."  

“We must invest to address today’s issues and also meet our future needs,” the strategy adds.

“We are taking a markedly different approach, focusing on longer term investment and planning, underpinned by the step change in funding announced at the 2013 Spending Round.”

In total the plan says that 127 new roads schemes will come forward in this first Road Period, describing it as “the largest programme of investment for a generation”

Importantly the strategy will see the introduction of a new class of Expressways routes on strategically important trunk routes to create consistent “motorway quality” journey alongside an uninterrupted Smart Motorway network linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Yorkshire.

Funded strategic studies into future schemes include:
- A potential Trans-Pennine tunnel
- Whether to upgrade the A69 or A66
Manchester Orbital
- Oxford to Cambridge Expressway
- M25 South West Quadrant improvement 
- Upgrade of the A1 south of Peterborough

And alongside these planned schemes, the 2040 vision for the nation’s network also includes funding for a series of eye-catching new “Strategic Studies” into ambitious projects such as a Trans-Pennine tunnel, the Manchester Orbital, an Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and options to improve the congested south west quadrant of the M25.

However the strategy will also break new ground by attempting to invest to meet the needs of all communities affected by road traffic. 

As such, the strategy will also place a great deal of onus on the Highways Agency, as it morphs into the new strategic roads company in April, to meet the growing demands of communities and road users impacted by predicted 27-57% increase in traffic by 2040.

In a bid to ensure that roads benefit not only drivers but those living around them, a £900M ringfenced fund has been set aside to enable investments in improvements outside the main roads scheme programme to be implemented.

This includes:

  • £250M cycling, safety and innovation fund – including £100M for 200 new sections of cycle network
  • £300M environment fund including £75M for noise barriers and £70M to boost network resilience.
  • £100M innovation fund including £40M to support driverless vehicle technologies 
  • £100M air quality fund
  • £100M growth and housing fund.

“This is undeniably a long term process; the transformation we are striving for cannot be achieved overnight, but will require time foresight and forward planning,” says the Strategy.

“In that vein consideration of the second Road Period and beyond has begun and will ramp up over the coming years so that the next RIS will continue this transformation.”

The plan also commits the Highways Agency to resurfacing 80% of the 1865 mile motorway and 2571 mile trunk road network with lower noise surfacing and to ensuring that fast charging facilities are available for electric vehicles every 20 miles by 2020.

Delivery of the strategy will be measured using a new performance specification with key performance indicator developed across eight areas each with target for the agency to acheive (see box).

Performance Specification

Safety: 40% reduction in people killed or seriously injured
User satisfaction: Overall user satisfaction of at least 90% 
Traffic flow: 97% of the network available; 
Motorway incidents: 85% of incidents cleared in less than an hour.
Environmental outcomes: 1150 noise important areas mitigated; reduction of net loss of biodiversity
Cyclists walkers and vulnerable users: Agency to report on progress
Efficiency: savings of over £1.2bn targeted over five years
Network condition: 95% of pavement is in “adequate” condition

The introduction of Expressway as a new class of strategically important trunk road will add to the network with improved and consistent standards and technology and be rolled out initially in the South West.

This will see long awaited  improvement to the A30 across Devon and Cornwall with Expressway standard road reaching a far as Camborne, and to the A303/A358 to provide an enhanced corridor to Exeter including improvement over the next 14 years to bottlenecks at Taunton, Sparkford and, crucially a 1.8 mile tunnel beneath Stonehenge.

The Roads Investment Strategy by Region

The Road Investment Strategy sets the Highways Agency challenges across the whole of its national network and breaks down investment into six regions. Looking around the regions we see investment plans:

South West

  • 7 schemes worth £2bn investment over the next five years
  • A tunnel at Stonehenge to allow A303 to be dualled
  • A303/A358 to provide an enhanced Expressway corridor to Exeter
  • A30 and A417 to be upgraded to Expressway standard link through Devon and Cornwall almost to Land’s End.
  • Consultation to decide the future management strategy for the Severn Crossings.

North East England and Yorkshire

  • Motorway from Newcastle to London complete by 2017
  • 18 schemes worth around £2.3bn to be invested in next five years
  • Smart motorways across the Pennines on M62 linking Leeds to Manchester with four lanes, Leeds to Sheffield and Sheffield to London.
  • Strategic study into a multi-billion pound Trans-Pennine tunnel
  • Planning to upgrade A1 in Yorkshire between Darlington and Redhouse.

North West

  • Four lane motorway from Manchester to Leeds
  • 9 schemes worth £800M investment over five years
  • Smart motorway widening of the M56 from A556 to M60 to four lanes
  • Smart spine along the M6 and M1
  • Strategic study into a multi-billion pound Trans-Pennine tunnel


  • 17 schemes worth £1.4bn investment over five years
  • Smart motorways to link London, Birmingham and Manchester
  • Housing growth supported by 11 schemes
  • Smart motorway to connect Worcester to the Birmingham Box and between Nottingham and Sheffield and to the north to connect Stoke, and on to Manchester, and south to Milton Keynes
  • Completion of the London to Yorkshire Smart Motorway.
  • Major upgrade of the region’s A road network
  • improving the M42 to the east of Birmingham, improving the connectivity to Birmingham airport, the National Exhibition Centre, the local Enterprise Zone, and pave the way for the new High Speed 2 interchange station

East of England

  • 15 schemes worth £1.5bn investment over five years
  • Dualling the Cambridge to Milton Keynes link
  • Support to improve access to Felixstowe and Ipswich ports
  • Improvement to the A47 to build in the A11 Expressway upgrade.
  • Strategic study into a Cambridge, Milton Keynes to Oxford Expressway to enhance the existing A421 and A428
  • Smart motorway introduced to tA1(M) around Stevenage

London and the South East

  • 18 schemes worth £1.4bn investment over five years
  • Improvement around 10 of 31 junctions on the M25
  • Smart technology introduced to eight motorways
  • Strategic study into long term solution to congestion around the South West quadrant of the M25
  • Smart motorways will be introduced to M27 around Southampton and Portsmouth
  • Junction upgrades on M25 at junction 30 to assist access to London Gateway Port, on the M20 at Dover and the M271 for improve access to Southampton Docks.
  • £30M invested in route management technology on A34
  • Strategic study into a Cambridge, Milton Keynes to Oxford Expressway to enhance the existing A421 and A428
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