Budget reveals 'biggest ever investment' in English strategic roads network

BUDGET 2020: The chancellor has announced what he described as the "biggest ever investment" of £27 billion in strategic roads and motorways, alongside the provision of additional loan money to assist councils in delivering local infrastructure projects.

Roads: Budget contained significant investment package (pic: Jim Champion via Flickr)
Roads: Budget contained significant investment package (pic: Jim Champion via Flickr)

In his Budget today, chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "We need to build the infrastructure that will lay the foundations for a new century of prosperity. We need to grab the opportunity to upgrade, to improve, to enhance, to level up."

He announced that, alongside the Budget, the government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) would be published, setting out "the biggest ever investment in strategic roads and motorway – over £27bn of tarmac".

"That will pay for work on over 20 connections to ports and airports, over 100 junctions, 4,000 miles of road," he said.

There had been speculation that the publication of the RIS2, which sets out the government’s funding commitments for England’s strategic roads, would be delayed in the wake of a recent landmark Court of Appeal ruling. This found the government’s Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) and its support for a third Heathrow runway to be unlawful because it did not take into account the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

But publication went ahead today. The Budget document said the RIS2 "will take forward schemes such as dualling the A66 Trans-Pennine and upgrading the A46 Newark bypass to address congestion, and building the Lower Thames Crossing to increase road capacity across the Thames east of London by 90%".

The Budget document also confirmed that publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy - the government’s response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s first National Infrastructure Assessment - has been delayed and would be published "later in the spring".

Elsewhere, the Budget document said ministers would consult on revising the provision of loans through the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) to prevent "a minority of councils" which have used "this cheap finance to buy very significant amounts of commercial property for rental income".

The document said this had reduced "the availability of PWLB finance for core local authority activities."

To address this, the government "will consult on revising the terms of PWLB lending to ensure local authorities continue to invest in housing, infrastructure and front-line services".

It added that, to "further enable high quality investment by local authorities, the government would be making an extra £1.15 billion of discounted loans available for local infrastructure projects".

The Budget document also said the government "intends to make an unprecedented investment in urban transport, starting by confirming allocations of over £1 billion from the Transforming Cities Fund".

The Transforming Cities Fund was launched in 2017 and is intended to improve transport links and promote local growth within city-regions.

The Budget document said these allocations "will deliver a range of local transport schemes, including an iconic new Central Park Bridge in Plymouth, a significant increase in the capacity of the Tyne and Wear Metro, and new cycleways in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole".

Away from roads and transport, the Budget document said the government "will double the amount it invests in the flood and coastal defence programme in England to £5.2 billion over six years, better protecting a further 336,000 homes and non-residential properties".

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