Government launches RIS 3 development process

06/12/2021
Dominic Browne

The Government has launched the formal engagement process behind National Highways' third multi-billion road investment strategy (RIS 3), outlining six key priority areas for future spending.

Safety, environment, network performance, economic growth, future planning and technology are all major elements of the Government's RIS3 development plans, suggesting some of these themes could have designated funds attached. 

All of these were outlined in Planning ahead for the Strategic Road Network, which discusses the process behind developing RIS 3, set to launch on 1 April 2025 and run until 31 March.

The Infrastructure Act 2015 requires the Government to set a road investment strategy for National Highways. The current strategy will expire on 31 March 2025.

Several new policy areas were also highlighted under the six key themes, including supporting the Government's levelling up agenda and understanding demand post-COVID.

A much greater focus also seems to have been given to decarbonisation and climate change resilience as well as commitments to improve whole network performance including the local network 'rather than looking at the SRN in isolation'. 

Under the RIS 3 pipeline, the Department for Transport confirmed that 31 schemes identified in RIS 2 (pages 114-115) 'are having options identified and assessed to provide a good understanding of which would be affordable, deliverable and meet the objectives to be included in RIS3'.

National Highways has committed to a suite of safety improvements along the A21

Another project selected in that original list, the A21 Safety Package, has already been accelerated for delivery by 2025.

There are four organisations with statutory roles in developing RIS 3. As well as the DfT and National Highways, the independent monitor, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is responsible for advising on the efficiency and deliverability of a RIS. Transport Focus, the independent watchdog representing road users’ interests, is also involved throughout the process.

On top of these, the government pledged to full use of sub-national transport bodies, describing their transport priorities as 'an invaluable perspective for the development of RIS3'. 

There are three broad phases for developing and preparing RIS3:

  • Research Phase (2021 to 2022) - This work includes three significant processes for gathering evidence. The Department will then consult on the SRN Initial Report in summer/ autumn 2022 ahead of producing the draft RIS.
  • Decision Phase (2023 to 2024) - The Department will publish a “Draft RIS” setting out its intentions for RIS3. This is the basis for a period of discussion between the Department and National Highways, informed by statutory advice from the ORR. This phase concludes with the publication of RIS3 and National Highways’ Strategic Business Plan.
  • Mobilisation Phase (2024 to 2025) - National Highways will publish its Delivery Plan and start to mobilise resources ahead of the start of the third Road Period on 1 April 2025.

As well as developing the RIS 3 pipeline schemes noted above, the research phase will involve route strategies and strategic studies.

'The most important source of evidence will be National Highways’ work to refresh its route strategies, which has already begun,' the document states. 

'The strategies explore the current performance and future pressures on every stretch of the SRN, covering matters such as safety, reliability, congestion, environmental impacts and local ambitions for economic and housing growth.'

There will also be strategic studies to analyse complex problems that may need to be addressed over multiple road periods.

'Any enhancement schemes that had funding approved in an earlier RIS, whose development has shown that they remain deliverable and value for money, and where construction has not concluded by 31 March 2025 will continue to be funded in RIS3 without additional assessment in the RIS-setting process, the document adds.

 

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