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.
Transport strategy policies 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 sub-national transport body, EEH is responsible for preparing the region’s advice in respect of investment priorities for the MRN and Large Local Major (LLM) schemes programme.
In July 2019 EEH submitted 11 schemes totalling circa £724 million pounds of investment to the DfT for the first five-year programme (2020-2025). These comprised nine schemes at pre-strategic outline business case (pre-SOBC) stage and two at strategic outline business case (SOBC) stage.
Schemes submitted were not ranked, or in competition with each other, they were reviewed on their own individual merit for inclusion in the programme of investment. Schemes are a mixture of bypasses, new alignments, improved access, missing links, major junction upgrades and packages of improvements.
However, whilst the government remains committed to the MRN/LLM schemes, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic means that the previously anticipated MRN/LLM funding settlement to 2024/25 was reduced to a one-year settlement for 2021/22.
As a result, the original scheme 2024/25 end-dates are no longer considered relevant and government funding for each scheme is being dealt with on a case by case basis.
In March 2021, EEH met with the DfT MRN team to discuss the future of the MRN/LLM programme. STBs have been encouraged to develop a long-term plan for the future of the MRN in their areas. Included in this is the need to capture a pipeline of future priorities in anticipation of further calls for schemes. This work is under development and EEH is engaging with its partners to seek initial views on future MRN priorities.
Road investment strategies (ongoing)
Sub-national transport bodies are playing a central role in engagement in National Highway's road investment strategies (RIS).
This includes route strategies, which are a key part of informing and setting priorities for the strategic road network.
Delivery of route strategy reports is planned for spring 2022.
Included in RIS2 (2020-2025) was a pipeline of over 30 schemes across England that will be considered for further scoping work to inform RIS3 (2025-2030)
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 National Highways to ensure schemes not originally included within the RIS3 pipeline are considered for investment in RIS3. This includes, A1 East of England, A45 Stanwick to Thrapston and A14 Junction 10a.
Other strategic corridors (ongoing)
EEH continues to work with its partners to ensure that the case for delivery of the right improvements in strategically important corridors, such as the A34 and A1 (south of Huntingdon) are being developed.
Oxford-Cambridge connectivity: roads study (ongoing)
On 18 March 2021, the Secretary of State for Transport announced his decision to cancel the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway project between Oxford and Milton Keynes.
Whilst the announcement provided clarity on the expressway, there remains a need to identify the infrastructure required to enable the delivery of planned economic and housing growth between Oxford and Milton Keynes. Building on the insight already developed by National Highways, the Department for Transport has made funds available to investigate the need for more targeted road interventions in the wider area.
As the sub-national transport body, England’s Economic Heartland is working with DfT and National Highways to take forward the work. Together, EEH, DfT and National Highways officers have developed a proposed scope of work. The work will focus on defining what constitutes an appropriate level of service for the strategically important road network and consider how investment should best be prioritised to deliver that level of service in the region.
Electric vehicles (ongoing)
The DfT has confirmed there is additional in-year funding for STBs for work on four specific areas, including electric vehicle infrastructure. Work will be progressed jointly with neighbouring STBs.
For electric vehicles, Transport East (as lead STB) and England’s Economic Heartland will undertake an ‘electric vehicle sprint’, working with local authorities and organisations including from the private sector, National Grid and the broader energy sector, to better understand and coordinate the delivery of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The work will bring together partners to understand their role and contribution to the regions’ transition to net zero and identify how we can collectively accelerate electric vehicle uptake.
It is likely that the projects' scopes will evolve further once engagement with DfT and wider partners has taken place.
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.
Consultation responses/ correspondence
Board/ Forum papers
Strategic Transport Leadership Board 24/09/21: Item 6 Strategically Important Roads 240921