Invest in our roads to benefit the economy - RHA
By James Barwise RHA Policy Advisor
With speculation increasing that the multi-billion-pound Birmingham to Manchester section of HS2 could be scrapped it’s worth examining how investment in our roads can deliver benefits to the economy.
In May 2020, National Highways opened their award-winning A14 improvement scheme to the public. The A14 carries around 85,000 vehicles per day; 26% of this is HGV traffic, with many lorries operating on the Felixstowe-Nuneaton corridor.
Prior to the scheme it was frequently congested and traffic was often disrupted by breakdowns, accidents and roadworks. To make this road fit for purpose, National Highways had to deliver nine miles worth of widening existing carriageway, and 12 miles of new bypass. The cost? £1.5 billion.
In the meantime, Birmingham City Council made the headlines this summer by being the latest Council to issue a Section 114 notice, following Croydon and Thurrock, effectively declaring itself bankrupt. It shouldn’t surprise us therefore that any money provided to local authorities for the sake of road maintenance will be reallocated into other priorities.
With the right levels of funding, local authorities can get on with the job of fixing potholes and improving networks to increase efficiency. The results of the 2022 ALARM survey demonstrated a considerable disparity in costs, with planned works costing an average of 35% less than reactive repairs in England (£46 planned; £71 reactive) and 57% less in Wales (£45 planned; £105 reactive). The cost of repairing the backlog of potholes across the country is thought to be £12bn. A huge sum of money, but a worthwhile investment in the long term.
For now, HS2 is still on the table. But as the costs continue to spiral many people in our industry and beyond will ask whether the money is better spent on our roads.
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