Driving forward: a new era for England’s major roads

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Highways England, the government-owned company which will deliver the largest investment in England’s major roads in a generation, officially launches next week.

The company, which replaces the Highways Agency from 1 April, will invest £11bn in delivering a raft of improvements on England’s motorways and major A roads making roads even safer, improving traffic flow and reducing congestion.

The improvements over the first five years of operation include:

112 major improvements, including 15 smart motorway projects providing 280 extra miles of capacity, and resurfacing the majority of the network

providing a more accessible road system delivering over 150 new cycling facilities and crossings, including 40 by the end of next year, and cycle-proofing new schemes

reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on the network by 40% from the 2010 baseline

For every £1 spent there will be £4 in wider benefits to the economy. Today the company published its five year plan setting out how the investment will be delivered.

Graham Dalton, Chief Executive of Highways England said:

“The launch of Highways England is an incredibly significant moment for those who rely on England’s motorways and major A roads.

“As well as delivering the biggest investment in major roads since the 1970s, there will be fundamental changes to the way motorways and major A roads are maintained and operated. We will be focussing on customers, providing better travel information before and during journeys, improving safety and reducing the impact of roadworks.

“Highways England is the organisation that will meet this challenge. We are committed to a strategic road network in England that is far safer, more free-flowing and more integrated and supports economic growth across the country.”

Highways England will be responsible for 4,300 miles of network, including 16,000 structures, which connect communities and its customers, such as logistics and freight companies, industries, walkers, cyclists and equestrians, who travel 85 billion miles every year.

The Delivery Plan, published today, is the detailed response to the Government’s Road Investment Strategy, a long-term approach to improving England’s major roads.

It shows how success will be measured against the performance specification set by government and how the organisation will be transformed to perform more efficiently and deliver five strategic outcomes: supporting economic growth, a safe and serviceable network, a more free-flowing network, an improved environment and a more accessible and integrated network.

It describes how Highways England will:

develop a new standard for our busiest A roads known as expressways to provide a similar standard of journey expected on our motorways with improved junctions, emergency refuge bays and technology to keep traffic moving and reduce delays.

organise improvement and maintenance work so it minimises disruption and keeps, on average, at least 97% of the road network open

work with industry on emerging vehicle technology and cultivate a new and more mature safety culture that encourages good driver behaviour resulting in safer roads, vehicles and people.

take a comprehensive approach to the environment: investing £225million on flood resilience schemes, encouraging biodiversity around our roads by protecting and restoring nature areas and resurfacing that tackles noise pollution using low-noise surfacing at 1,150 locations

trial innovative technology on our network, such as wireless power transfer to electric/hybrid vehicles, wireless internet on roads in the south east and acoustic incident detection systems to improve tunnel safety even further

In the North West, work will continue on adding extra capacity on the M60 and M62 around Manchester through the delivery of smart motorways and improving the A556 Knutsford to Bowdon route – making journeys more reliable. Supporting the ambitions for a Northern Powerhouse, work will start on providing 56 miles of new capacity on the M6 between Stoke and Knutsford and Warrington and Wigan as well as upgrading further sections of the M56, M60 and M62. Highways England will also be developing a plan to improve trans-Pennine links between Manchester and Sheffield and consult on possible new routes in 2017.

Oversight of Highways England will come from the Office of Rail and Road, formerly Office of Rail Regulation, who will monitor the performance and efficiency of the company and Transport Focus who will act as the watchdog for road users.

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