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Roads to Nowhere

New briefing: people with road-promoting councils get a raw deal

Sian Berry's picture

27 September: Our analysis of the 45 final bids for the Development Pool of large transport projects is released today, along with full data for people to see for themselves what councils have proposed.

Since the ‘Best and Final Bid’ proposals for the Development Pool projects were released on 12th September, Campaign for Better Transport has been busy collating, checking and analysing the data. This wasn’t made easy by the the local councils involved, as the details were provided in an array of separate PDF documents for each scheme.

Not the best example of accessibility we’ve seen, but at least the data was there, and working our way through the documents has been worth it. We now have a clear overview of the choices transport ministers will face in December when they decide which local authorities will share £630m of Department for Transport funding. 

To make it easy to access the basic details, we have also produced a handy Google map of the 45 schemes, and compiled and released Excel and csv databases (see links below) for those who are keen to examine the data without trawling the PDFs for themselves.

The Excel even has a simple interactive feature that lets you pick schemes to add them to the total, so you can play ‘Fantasy Development Pool’ and decide how you would share the money out between the schemes if you were the minister in charge!

What does our analysis show? As we already knew, the Development Pool proposals are heavily road-based and, amongst the 20 road schemes, there are 13 ‘traditional’ bypasses and ring-roads – several of which have been sitting on town hall shelves for many years and been abandoned several times before.

Our briefing compares these roads with the rest of the pool and the results are clear: new bypasses and ring-roads cost more on average than the other proposals, are asking for higher DfT contributions, and have also increased their local commitments by more. The average road-promoting local council has added £9 million to its contribution since January, and has done this while cutting jobs and claiming less money is available for other, more vital, council functions

Higher costs for bypasses - chart image from briefing

The briefing also takes a detailed look at the five road projects with the highest local contributions, showing that local taxpayers in these areas (Lincolnshire, East Sussex, Norwich, Devon and Torbay, and Bristol and North Somerset) are getting a very raw deal indeed. 

Unwilling to give up their pet projects, and unable to reduce the amount of DfT funding requested by cutting the total scheme costs significantly (new roads to run from A to B are hard to scale back), these councils have decided that they have to increase their local contributions by much higher amounts than the average scheme. 

The average local contribution to these five roads is now a huge £27million and every council will be liable for the whole cost of any overruns on their roads. These are a strong possibility, given the recent history of costs rising once projects get underway, and we think this is a liability local taxpayers should not have to face.

Read the full briefing document: Why are councils gambling on bypasses and ring roads while making cuts to services?

Download all the data as an interactive Excel document (xlsx only)

Download all the data as a csv document