The Government has published the long-awaited Road Investment Strategy for 2020 to 2025, with a budget of £27.4bn.
The funding envelope has increased from the previously announced £25.3bn, which was to be funded from the National Roads Fund (NRF) created through ringfenced Vehicle Excise Duty.
Highways understands that the extra cash for the final RIS 2 may have come from outside the NRF.
However, the new RIS includes the £1.7bn A303 Stonehenge Tunnel (above) and the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC – also a tunnel, below). Both the Stonehenge scheme, described as ‘the largest environmental improvement ever made to the UK road network’, and the roads for the LTC were previously outside RIS 2.
It is unclear whether the two schemes will be completed during the five-year period or whether their full cost (around £7-£8bn) has been included in the budget. If so, it is likely that other schemes have been cut, given that the cost envelope has increased by only £2.1bn.
A Treasury spokesperson told Highways: ‘We will attempt to finish them in RIS2. The intention is that they will be fully funded.’
The document states that Highways England will ‘start or complete £14.7bn of upgrades’ by 2025. These works appear to include schemes carried over from the first RIS, which expires this month.
This sum also appears to include money for enhancements that ministers counted as part of the £15bn RIS 1 capital budget, with around £3bn already earmarked to be spent in 2020/21.
More than £20bn of the overall £27.4bn budget is capital spending. The capital spending includes nearly £6bn for ‘operations, maintenance renewals and business costs’ and this area is also allocated a further £6bn resource spending.
A statement of funds available sets out approximately £5bn spending a year over the five-year period, around half of which is for capital enhancements in each year. However, the document states: ‘Highways England has the flexibility to bring forward or defer up to 10% of its capital funding each year, to ensure that the capital funding profile is efficient.’
There is also £870m for designated funds, which will continue to be ring-fenced:
- Environment and Wellbeing: £345m
- Users and Communities: £169m
- Innovation and Modernisation: £216m
- Safety and Congestion: £140m
The strategy states that the Safety and Congestion fund ‘should help address pinchpoints where small-scale interventions can bring about significant improvements to congestion or safety, and also complete work begun under Highways England’s RP1 Growth and Housing fund’.
The document’s investment plan includes maintenance priorities such as ‘renewing bridges and other structures, replacing safety barriers and other forms of vehicle restraint, and retiring the first generation of concrete pavement’.
It states that Highways England expects to spend £1bn renewing structures in Roads Period 2 (RP2, ‘on top of the roundly £500 million required for day-to-day maintenance’).
A further £450m will be spent renewing over 1,000 miles of safety barrier and £400m on concrete pavement.
The investment plan adds: ‘At least a further £2 billion is expected to be spent on more traditional aspects of renewing and maintaining the network. This includes: Around £1.4 billion expected to be spent resurfacing the network.’
It also names uncosted enhancement schemes for each region categorised as ‘under construction – construction of this project is underway at the time of publication of RIS2’;
The document references: 'Committed for RP2 – construction of this project is expected to start by 1 April 2025; Smart motorways subject to stocktake – the sequencing of smart motorway projects will be revisited in light of the smart motorway stocktake when it is concluded; and pipeline for RIS3.'
The document states: ‘The newest commitments made in RIS1 were always expected to be under construction during the period covered by RIS2.’
RIS 2 also includes a performance specification, setting out six outcome areas ‘upon which we require Highways England to focus’:
- Improving safety for all;
- Fast and reliable journeys;
- A well maintained and resilient network;
- Being environmentally responsible;
- Meeting the needs of all users;
- Achieving real efficiency