Publication of the definitive major road network (MRN) is imminent but stuck in a queue of government announcements, a senior Department for Transport official has said.
Speaking at the ADEPT conference last week, director of roads Graham Pendlebury (pictured) said: ‘There was a consultation that ended some time ago now. I’m hoping our response will come out imminently.’
But he added: ‘If you know about how government communications and grids and things work, there’s quite a backlog of things in the pipeline at the moment so it’s sort of in a queue is the best anyone could say.
‘But we’re very hopeful that we can get something out on that just as soon as possible because the work has basically been done.
‘We have the Government’s full response to that [consultation], with a new map … a shiny new interactive map, and we also have, pretty much complete, investment guidelines for people who are interested in bringing forward potential schemes for the major road network and to set out what will be some of the criteria and considerations that we might be interested in.
‘But we’re still doing a little bit of thinking around that.’
In response to a question from Highways, Mr Pendlebury defended the announcement by transport secretary Chris Grayling at the beginning of October of five schemes to be funded as part of the MRN, ahead of the Government confirming which local authority roads would make up the network.
He said: ‘We published the indicative map and there were large parts of that network that no-one was arguing about, so I think there’s no question of us saying, this is going to be on the network.
‘There were just some schemes – they’ve been around for some while but just made sense to move ahead with and start to get that pipeline going.’
However, he told the audience of local authorities transport bosses that they should take a different approach themselves.
‘It is about trying to think of [the network] as not just a series of random schemes. I think we are keen for individual highway authorities or sub-national transport bodies…to take a fresh look at the sorts of schemes that would be suitable for MRN funding.
‘Because there’s a great temptation and we’ve seen it and we actually do it ourselves as well, which is to go to the drawer, open it, and dust off schemes that have been sitting there for 30 or 40 years, just waiting for some money to come along.
‘And I don’t think that fits with the ethos that we’re trying to develop. Let’s just not go back down the list of existing schemes that we know about and say, this is something we’re trying to fund. Let’s think again about the whole thing.’
He added: ‘Bearing in mind, the economy that we’ve got, there is an issue about – we know full well it takes time to develop schemes; they can’t just be done overnight.
‘And there is a question about the phasing of the money, the interaction with the RIS [Highways England's Road Investment Strategy], and making sure that we have a steady profile rather than just saying let’s announce the whole road thing now.’