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What’s in store for road users over the next five years?

20 April 2020

Barely noticed now, and in circumstances vastly different than anyone imagined, the new five-year plan for motorways and ‘A’ roads has begun.

Known as Road Investment Strategy 2, it’s worth noting this landmark in the Government’s commitment to invest in infrastructure as well as to put the transport user centre-stage in its plans for England’s strategic roads.

Unlike the first five-year programme, formulation of the second plan has involved Transport Focus throughout, working to ensure that the thrust of Highways England work is focused on addressing the priorities of road users.

Since 2017 we have pressed for action on nine priority areas, including enhanced safety, journey times and improved surface quality. The Department for Transport’s (DfT) strategy document sets out the Government’s vision for England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads, explicitly guided by these nine user priorities.

And DfT makes it clear that focus on existing roads – ‘fixing the strategic roads we have today’ – will do most to respond to these user needs. The new plan rightly focuses on operation, maintenance and renewal of these roads we already have as well as a programme of improvements.

Transport Focus has been particularly active in helping DfT develop the new performance specification.  It’s important that what’s measured incentivises Highways England to act in road users’ best interests. We think the metrics now being used are much more closely aligned with what matters to users. And we’ll be working closely with Highways England and DfT to nail down the remaining ‘in development’ metrics.

A road network exists for people and goods to move about.  A key success factor is therefore journey satisfaction.  We are very pleased that our Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) is now the official measure of how satisfied drivers are when they make a journey on a Highways England road.  It will be complemented by other surveys covering satisfaction among lorry and coach companies, and among cyclists and pedestrians.

As always, publication of a strategy is just the beginning. There is a lot of work ahead for Highways England in actually delivering a £27.4 billion programme, and doing so with the least impact on existing road users. But the remit from Government is clear, and we are pleased to have played a key part in helping make sure it focuses on those who use Highways England’s roads.

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