Currently, motorways and trunk roads form the strategic road network and are looked after by Highways England. All other roads are under local authority control and form the local road network.
The government’s new Transport Investment Strategy policy document reveals plans to create a middle category, to be called the major road network, comprised of the most important local authority A roads. These roads will stay under local authority control but will benefit from sharing some of the budget of the strategic road network.
From 2020/21 the government has guaranteed that all revenue raised from vehicle excise duty (VED) in England will be allocated – hypothecated – to a new national roads fund. The national roads fund was previously envisaged to be ring-fenced for national routes. Across the UK as a whole, VED raised £5.8bn in 2016-17. Only VED raised in England will go to the English national roads fund, however, but creation of a major road network is a device for enabling local authority roads to get a share of this pot.
“While our reforms have successfully put in place planning and funding certainty and a rigorous performance regime for our nationally-managed Strategic Road Network, we don’t want the important network of locally-managed A-roads to fall behind,” the Transport Investment Strategy document says1.
“Later this year we will consult on proposals for creating a Major Road Network (MRN): a designated network reaching all parts of the country. The MRN would form a middle tier of our busiest and most economically important local authority A roads, sitting between the national SRN and the rest of the local road network. As part of this consultation we will make proposals to allocate a proportion of the National Roads Fund to the MRN.”
It continues: “We want the dedicated level of funding and management attention going into the Major Roads Network to strongly support delivery of economic plans and the government’s Industrial Strategy at the local and regional level, delivering economic growth, supporting economic agglomeration and unlocking new housing development, alongside additional maintenance to address issues with these roads. We will therefore consult on how best to arrange the management of the MRN at the regional level, including providing a key role for sub-national transport bodies such as Transport for the North, Midlands Connect, and England’s Economic Heartland in tandem with local authorities. We will also consult on arrangements for those areas where sub-national transport bodies are not formed.
“We do not plan for sub-national transport bodies to become network operators or highway authorities, and in all cases, highway authority responsibility for MRN roads would remain with the existing local authorities.”
Civil engineering contractors have initially welcomed the idea. Marie-Claude Hemming, director of external affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said it would help enable local authorities “to target investment where it is needed”.
- The Department for Transport’s 2017 Transport Investment Strategy policy document can be downloaded from www.gov.uk/government/publications/transport-investment-strategy