£15bn road improvements: evolution or electioneering?

The government says next month’s Autumn Statement will include plans to spend £15 billion on major road projects between now and 2020 – creating hundreds of extra miles of motorways and trunk roads to speed up journey times and reduce accidents.

‘World-class infrastructure’

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference in London this week, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “To secure Britain’s future, we need world-class infrastructure. Families need it to get around; businesses need it to create jobs; we need it to compete with the world and deliver economic security. “You will see an Autumn Statement where we choose the future again. At its heart is the biggest, boldest and most far reaching road improvement programme in four decades: over 100 improvements to our major roads.” The £15 billion targets some of the UK’s busiest and most problematic roads, including:
  • A303 to the south west
  • A1 north of Newcastle
  • A1 Newcastle-Gateshead western bypass
  • Trans-Pennine roads in the north of England
  • A47 in the east of England
  • A27 on the south coast of England.

Going underground

As part of the plans to upgrade the A303, the government has announced ambitious plans to build a tunnel under Stonehenge. The National Trust has supported this idea, telling ministers it a tunnel of between 1.5 miles and 1.8 miles could be the way to ease the traffic jams that blight this particular stretch of road.

Drumming up support

The £15 billion of upgrades to be announced in the Autumn Statement will be spent alongside the £9 billion that has already been spent over this Parliament – meaning the government will have spent over £24billion on major road improvements by the turn of the decade. But not everyone is fully behind the proposals, with some cynics pointing out many of the projects are in marginal constituencies, suggesting the plans are only being put in place to strengthen Conservative support ahead of next year’s general election. Even seasoned road campaigners are not entirely convinced. Chris Todd, roads campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "The road building schemes the Government is so keen to talk up will trash protected areas and do nothing for the economy. "It makes no sense to spend billions ploughing more lanes of traffic through our National Parks or desecrating irreplaceable historic sites like Stonehenge. These schemes will make people more dependent than ever on their cars, place greater costs on the NHS, while failing to tackle problems like the massive backlog of pot holes blighting local roads." Which proves that no matter how extensive the spending and how ambitious the plans, you can’t please all of the people, all of the time. What do you think? Is this a genuine attempt to improve conditions for motorists across the country, or electioneering ahead of next year’s vote?

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