We must plan a different future for our roads network for both passengers and freight – one that puts decarbonisation at its centre and encompasses strong environmental principles. This will require a shift is the way we look at roads and their role in serving communities and businesses in the future.
The regional transport strategy sets out where investment in the strategically important road network will be supported. Policy commitments state that that investment in the Strategic Road Network and Major Road Network will be supported where it meets one or more of the following criteria and is consistent with wider environmental objectives:
i) Protects and enhances the existing infrastructure asset
ii) Delivers a solution to an identified problem on the existing infrastructure asset
iii) Enables access to new economic opportunities and/or housing growth
iv) Enables delivery of sustainable transport linkages such as public transport and active travel improvements
The wider context provided by the Transport Strategy helps set the direction of travel for the outcomes required from investment in the road network.
i) A network which puts decarbonisation at the forefront of investment priorities
ii) A network which supports the Heartland’s wider growth aspirations
iii) A network which is future ready
iv) A network which is managed, planned and delivered in a way that is consistent with the Travel Hierarchy (policy 4 of the Transport Strategy)
v) A network which considered the impact on the transport network locally
vi) A network which encompasses strong environmental principles
What we're doing
Major Road Network (ongoing)
The Major Road Network is the country’s busiest and most economically important local authority ‘A’ roads. A specific new funding stream is dedicated to improvements on MRN roads. The MRN was classified following a Government consultation in 2018.
As the Sub-national Transport Body for the region, England's Economic Heartland is tasked with preparing the region’s advice to Government in respect of investment priorities for the MRN, along with the Large Local Major (LLM) schemes.
In May 2019 EEH's partners submitted scheme proposals for consideration for the first five- year programme. Following a review process, in July 2019 EEH submitted 11 schemes to the Department for Transport for the first five year programme (2020-2025).
Schemes being proposed are not ranked or in competition with each other, they have been reviewed on their own individual merits for inclusion in the regional programme.
The November 2020 Spending Review resulted in a one-year settlement for the Major Road Network (MRN) programme for 2021/22. This has not stopped MRN and Large Local Majors (LLM) schemes proceeding, however individual schemes do now require approval to proceed from the Treasury.
DfT has confirmed that the 2024/25 end date for this round of MRN/LLM investment is no longer absolute but officials are keen for local authorities to maintain momentum and deliver at pace.
STBs have been encouraged to develop a long-term plan for the future of the Major Road Network in their areas. Included in this will be a need to capture a pipeline of future priorities in anticipation of further calls for schemes.
Road investment strategies - role of STBs (ongoing)
The Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS 2) was published in March 2020. Included within RIS2 is clarity over Highways England’s expected role for sub-national transport bodies going forward, including opportunities to cultivate existing working relationships between Highways England (HE) and STBs.
STBs will play a central role in engagement in the strategies in the following three areas:
i) Providing a multi-network perspective at a large scale, helping to guide a more integrated transport network and strengthening resilience where people would otherwise be dependent on an individual SRN link (acknowledging that solutions to an SRN problem may lie elsewhere in the transport system)
ii) RIS 3 (2025 – 2030) pipeline – playing an active role in articulating the benefits of proposals being examined in their area (for example, where a proposal can support wider and more ambitious Local Plans for development).
iii) Location of strategic studies – RIS2 outlines how STBs are carrying out work on strategic corridors and looks to working together to ensure the same work is not commissioned by both parties.
Highways England is working with EEH to take forward the programme of studies underway within the Heartland. Route strategies are a key part of informing and setting out our strategic priorities for the strategic road network moving forward.
EEH will work closely with local authority partners to ensure that the Heartland’s priorities are reflected in the strategies. Delivery of route strategy reports is planned for next spring.
RIS3 Pipeline (ongoing)
Included in RIS2 was a pipeline of over 30 schemes across England that will be considered for further scoping work to inform RIS3.
The RIS3 pipeline is not exhaustive, however £347m has been allocated over the RIS2 period towards their scoping and development.
There are three RIS3 pipeline schemes in the Heartland area, these are:
i) M11 Junc 13 West (Tranche 2)
ii) A47/ A1101 Elm Road Junction (Tranche 2)
iii) A404/ M40 Junc 4 High Wycombe (Tranche 3)
In addition, the A404 Bisham Roundabout is in Tranche 3.
EEH has been working with DfT and Highways England to ensure schemes not originally included within the RIS3 Pipeline are considered for investment in RIS3.
- A1 East of England
- A45 Stanwick to Thrapston
- A14 Junction 10a
Impact of remote working on region's roads (2021)
Research commissioned by England’s Economic Heartland revealed how the legacy of COVID-19 could transform capacity on the region’s roads.
It found that if people who commuted by car pre-COVID but then worked from home were to continue to do so for two days per week, 10-12% of peak hour traffic would be removed.
The modelling by City Science also shows how the impact differs across the Heartland due to differences in demographics, the sector-mix in the local economy, and the flows of specific roads.
The July 2021 launch of the report, 'Working from Home Propensity & Capacity Release', came as government ended its instruction to people to work from home if possible, following the easing of restrictions as England moved to the fourth step of the lockdown roadmap.
Prior to the pandemic just over 25% of the country’s workforce had some experience of working from home with around 12% doing so at least once per week. During the pandemic the number of days working from home quadrupled.
The new research will help inform strategic infrastructure planning throughout the region, which stretches from Swindon across to Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire. This includes EEH’s programme of connectivity studies, starting with the Oxford-Milton Keynes and Peterborough-Northampton-Oxford corridors. EEH is also looking to engage with the business community to understand their perspectives on future working trends.