Decisive action needed on roads strategy

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The National Audit Office has warned that the Department for Transport and Highways England need to take decisive action before the summer if they are to deliver optimal value from their Road Investment Strategy.

It described the first Road Investment Strategy, which covers the five years to March 2020, is an important step towards better long-term planning of England’s strategic road network.

“But the speed with which it was put together has created risks to deliverability, affordability and value for money which could be carried forward into future road investment periods,” the NAO warned.

It argued that the DfT had selected projects without knowing whether they would be the best value and 54 of the 112 projects are currently scheduled to start in 2019/20, which could cause significant disruption to motorists.

“The Department chose to set a capital programme which was forecast to exceed funding by £652 million. This ‘over-programming’ had been standard practice in the Highways Agency, as it was expected that some schemes would be delayed or drop out of the portfolio as it was refined. By August 2016, the amount by which forecast capital costs exceeded available funding had increased to £841 million.”

The NAO recommended that the Department and Highways England should agree an updated delivery plan for the remainder of the road period, including a clear statement setting out the impact of this updated plan on any work undertaken in the next road period. The Department should also re-evaluate its approach to oversight of Highways England, as the scale and complexity of Highways England’s investment portfolio increases.

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