Interurban transport advice note on road policy


Commission's advice to the Chancellor and Transport Secretary on priorities for the strategic road network.

Letter to ministers

Dear Chancellor and Secretary of State,

Investing in interurban transport is one of the key opportunities for infrastructure to support sustainable growth and narrow disparities between regions. But it must be done in a way that is compatible with our decarbonisation and environmental objectives.

The national road network is an integral part of the interurban transport network and we have been in discussion with your officials as they develop the next Road Investment Strategy. As the government’s independent advisers on infrastructure policy, the Commission’s view is that it would be useful to share our key findings to date now, in order to support the decisions you will be making on the Road Investment Strategy. This is ahead of final, costed recommendations that will form part of the second National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA2) in the autumn, and therefore consists of an interim advice note, consistent with our remit objectives.

Our view is that the government needs an interurban transport strategy, built around a single vision to drive economic opportunity and narrow disparities between regions, and protect and enhance the environment. We must do what is necessary to decarbonise the transport network. A clear, long-term plan that includes a robust response to decarbonisation obligations will bring coherence to the national road programme and will enable projects to progress.

Our advice is that the forthcoming roads strategy needs to be shaped by:

  • a clear understanding of the mechanisms by which national roads support growth, namely by facilitating the flow of trade in services and goods
  • acknowledgement that the functioning of the economy is highly dependent on the effective maintenance and resilience of the existing road network which therefore warrants priority investment
  • a focus on improving the links that are most important for connecting our cities. This requires a focus on the links that will be most significant for trade between major regional cities.

Promotion of trade in services requires analysis of links between large population centres, while supporting trade in goods needs to understand patterns of movement between key freight distribution nodes like ports, airports, and distribution hubs.

Developing an integrated interurban transport strategy is a large and complex task, and the Commission has not attempted to design this in detail. However, our advice sets out the key factors that such a strategy should address on roads and develops tools to help analyse the issues from a strategic perspective. From our analysis we have developed maps that highlight the most potentially highly demanded parts of the road network, and where performance is relatively poor. However, we also recognise the value of the input of other bodies that the government has been instrumental in establishing, notably Subnational Transport Bodies and Mayoral Combined Authorities, and the approach we set out here should be complemented with their input on local opportunities that would not appear in our analysis.

Attached to this letter is an annex setting out the Commission’s considerations in more detail, which we will publish on our website. In our final NIA2 report in the autumn, we will build on this interim advice and provide government with a costed and prioritised portfolio of road enhancements to support growth across the regions.

I would like to thank you for your officials’ helpful and collaborative engagement with the Commission on this work. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further.

Kind regards,

Sir John Armitt, Chair

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