Report investigates value of Scottish local network - estimated at £6bn a year


A project in Scotland involving key public sector bodies has outlined a framework for analysing the value of the local road network and investment and intervention programmes - including economic, social and environmental factors.

The report found: ‘Users spend £6.4bn per annum to use Scotland’s local roads network, at an indicative cost of £1.8bn. This points to a value to cost ratio of around 3.5 to 1 at a Scotland-wide level.'

However, the report's authors stressed that the 'absolute value is immeasurable', and advised against using these initial figures as a direct multiplier between the cost and the value.

For instance, if you spend less on maintenance, i.e. cost - but keep the value the same then it looks like you are improving your return on investment, which is ‘clearly inaccurate’, one author pointed out.

The Scottish Roads Research Board provided funding to the Improvement Service and SCOTS (the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland) to undertake the study, which was led by Community Models with support from Caledonian Economics and the Social Value Portal.

The proposed model for value judgement is based on a three tier system of utility, social and future value:

  • Level 3 (top of the pyramid) – future value: predictive and responsive to policy and future trends
  • Level 2 – social value: reflective and evidence-based drawing on wider non-roads specific datasets
  • Level 1 (bottom of the pyramid) – utility value: evidence-based using readily available attributable roads data

This provides a basis ‘for a comprehensive overview of current and projects value using a breadth of socio-economic data linking back to the key systems interdependence,’ the report states.

The report authors said: ‘[It is] relatively straight forward to identify basic utility value at this stage – at both national and local levels. This is based on what road users – personal, business and community – actually spend to use the roads (as a measure of their willingness to pay).

‘Estimated value is £6.4bn across Scotland per annum. There is a level of spend/cost required to generate this value based on levels of local authority spend on local roads and proxy value of the costs of the economic social and environmental impact of the network.

‘Together this spend/cost comes to around £1.8bn per annum. The absolute numbers and ratios are ‘lines in the sand’ rather than ends in themselves…they provide baselines against which forward scenarios can be modelled.’

The Phase 1 Research Report is set to be signed off by the Scottish Roads Research Board by the end of January, when it will be published on its website.

Derek Stewart, co-founder of Community Models and a former director at Amey, helped lead the project and gave delegates at Traffex Scotland an exclusive first look at the results.

Mr Stewart told Highways that his team had submitted a Phase 2 application for funding to test the model, particularly the level three future value element, in a small number of representative pilot sites across Scotland.

He added that for the second level of social value it was found that there is data to support analysis but it is not used much or consistently in modelling.

For the level three future value predictive analysis ‘we have a desk based version and we now want to test that’, he said.

‘We want to look at regional pilots to give us more confidence in the data and the process to build up a model that can be used on an ongoing basis.’

The report was completed through secondary desktop research based on existing literature and data, supplemented by primary research in terms of consultation, interviews and surveys.

A structured community council survey received 253 responses in total from across the breadth of Scottish geographies.

Headline findings

  1. Local roads fulfil a number of functions and purposes and this will continue
  2. They don’t exist in isolation - they supplement, complement and underpin
  3. Value takes a number of different forms and varies by geography and by stakeholder group
  4. Absolute value is immeasurable, relative value will vary
  5. Local roads make a significant contribution to supporting more vulnerable individuals and communities
  6. There are already modelling processes on which to build (traffic forecasting, STAG, inclusive growth, etc.) the majority of data is already captured/collected and used for other purposes.

Proposed way forward

Develop a consistent approach – a model – to assess value that:

  1. Reflects social economic and environmental value to communities as core investment considerations
  2. Draws on data and approaches already available to the wider public sector and provides scope for macro and micro level analysis
  3. Aligns with national government strategy on inclusive growth and other key outcomes
  4. Can be applied/adopted in a standard form across the sector and calibrated to meet regional local and sub-local needs and differences

Next steps

  • Build out form utility value to identify and test the social and future value components
  • Test and refine the theoretical model on the ground through more applied research (including ensuring it can be applied at national regional and local levels)
  • Establish a standardised approach with accompanying guidelines to ensure consistency and comparability
  • Demonstrate how the model works to embed local roads in wider strategic considerations
  • Explore potential for digital technology to support planners (on both commissioner and provider sides) to assess value moving forward

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue


  • The £2.5bn Surrey partnering contract
  • The politics of protest
  • Stoke's roadworks league
View the latest issue

Highways jobs

Environmental Health/Environmental Protection Officer - Noise

£41,607.00 - £44,598.00
This post attracts an essential car user allowance. The post holder is able to take part in the Council's flexible working scheme. Tower Hamlets, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Tower Hamlets London Borough Council

Engineering Manager

£46,756 - £54,238 per annum
The Engineering Team is responsible for the management of the Council’s fleet of vehicles (circa 330), ensuring... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Street Care Operative

Grade 3 - Starting at £18,657 per annum, rising to £19,905
The Council’s Street Care service is responsible for the cleanliness of the whole borough and undertake a range of street cleaning and street care ... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Neighbourhood Highways Officers (Western Team)

£28,672 - £32,234 per annum
We are seeking to recruit two Neighbourhood Highways Officers, to be based in Okehampton. Devon
Recruiter: Devon County Council

Demand Responsive Transport Officer

£32,234 pa - £34,728 pa
The role sits within the Integrated Transport Unit. Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Head of Highways

£68,640 - £76,148 per annum
We are absolutely delighted to announce that Cheshire West and Chester are looking for a Head of Highways. Chester, Cheshire
Recruiter: Cheshire West & Chester

Highways Team Leader

£25,481 - £25,991
Are you a hard-working and experienced Highways operative, looking for the next step in your career? Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

ICT Field Engineer

£29,577 - £30,451
This is an exciting and challenging time to join us, as throughout the organisation we are... Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

Senior Structural Engineer

£45,768 per annum
The role involves managing the Structural Engineering Team and the budget for structural engineering consultants.   Lambeth, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Lambeth Council

Street Works Manager

Are you a self-starter who takes ownership of problems and takes pride in finding solutions? Lambeth, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Lambeth Council

Highways Network Officer

£31.346 - £32.234
Are you looking to progress your career within the Highways and Transport sector? Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

Bridge Engineer

£35,745.00 to £36,922.00
We are currently seeking to recruit an experienced and enthusiastic Bridge Engineer. Kendal, Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

Highways Team Leader

£25 481 - £25 991
Are you a hard-working and experienced Highways operative looking for the next step in your career? Workington, Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

Inventory Technician

£19,312 - £20,493 per annum
We have an exciting opportunity available within the Highways Service at Sandwell Council.  Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Shopmobility & Public Convenience Attendant

Grade 3 - Starting at £18,657 per annum, pro rata rising to £19,905
We are looking for an individual who works well in a small team to deliver an excellent level of service at our flagship Market Road Public Conveni... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Waste Collection Operative - HGV Driver/Loader

Grade 5 - Starting at £23,403 per annum, rising to £25,791
If you enjoy working outside and would like to make a positive contribution to the collection of both waste and recycling in the Borough, this coul... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Director of Climate Emergency & Behavioural Change

£95,000 to £109,000 per annum
At Waltham Forest we are developing an ambitious, transformative agenda to tackle the global Climate Emergency. Waltham Forest, London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Waltham Forest

Street Works and Permitting Manager

£44,863 - £51,817
Are you a qualified highways engineer who wants to make a difference to the efficient running of the highway network within Lincolnshire? Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Highways Officer

£27,741 to £30,451
Are you someone who is looking to progress their career with one of the most highly regarded highway services in the country? Brompton, Northallerton
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Officer

£27,741 to £30,451
Are you someone who is looking to progress their career with one of the most highly regarded highway services in the country? Boroughbridge, York
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video