Local projects receive funding boost

Bridge repairs, resurfacing projects and flood resilience initiatives are among major local road schemes to have received investment this week under the Government’s Challenge Fund.

Nineteen councils across England have been successful in securing a share of £75M after they were asked to put forward schemes which could make a real difference to road users. The winning projects aim to cut congestion, reduce journey times and improve reliability, as well as boost economic growth.

“This investment will enable councils to repair roads and key infrastructure like bridges – boosting reliability on our roads so people can stay connected with family, friends and employment, while also keeping businesses connected with customers,” said Transport Minister Jesse Norman.

One successful bid will see road users in Devon benefit from a major carriageway and drainage renewal scheme to regenerate the dual carriageway stretch of the A361. The £5M project has received £4.3M from the Challenge Fund and will improve access from Devon to the M5, supporting businesses and tourism.

Meanwhile in Lancashire a £4.6M refurbishment of the A589 Greyhound Bridge will boost business by enabling heavy goods vehicles to access the structure.

And in Northumberland £5M has been awarded to repair and strengthen key routes for the rural and regional economy, making it easier for visitors to reach destinations like Hadrian’s Wall and Northumberland National Park.

Most of the schemes are expected to be delivered within the next 12 months.

Highways Term Maintenance Association executive director Geoff Allister welcomed the investment. He said: “A well maintained road network is critical to the economic and social development of our communities. We believe a long term asset management approach, allied to increased levels of funding, is required to bring our road network up to an acceptable standard and arrest the decline caused by years of under investment.”

The Local Government Association’s transport spokesman Martin Tett commented: “Any additional funding to councils for roads maintenance enables them to make a difference not just for motorists, but for businesses and infrastructure in their local area.”

But he added: “Councils need long term and consistent investment, which enables them to plan ahead and invest taxpayers’ money as effectively as possible if we’re to bring our local roads up to scratch.”

♦ Seven new strategic highway projects are due to be under way by the spring while eight current schemes will be completed in the next 12 months according to Highways England’s latest Delivery Plan Update, published yesterday.

Major schemes starting in 2017/18 include smart motorways between junctions three and five of the M20 near Maidstone, and on the M6 around Coventry.

Also this week Highways England has announced that its latest smart motorway upgrade – on the M3 through Surrey and Hampshire – has fully opened with new technology and a fourth lane of traffic in place in each direction.