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Roads to Nowhere

Road building costs increase by up to £4 billion

16 August 2008
The Campaign for Better Transport today revealed that the cost of the Highways Agency roads in the Government's road building programme has now increased by up to £4 billion. When the schemes entered the programme, they totalled £4.45 billion, but are now predicted to cost up to 83% more than first thought, and could cost the taxpayer as much as £8.12 billion.[1][3]

A report by the Department for Transport released last month revealed that 89% of congestion is in urban areas, “where the answer cannot be building new roads” [2].

Campaign for Better Transport’s roads and climate campaigner, Richard George, said:

“The Government have consistently failed to keep the spiralling cost of Highways Agency road building under control and cannot expect the taxpayer to pick up a £8.12 billion bill for a collection of expensive white elephants that will increase traffic, pollution and carbon emissions. The writing on the wall for government is surely: when in a hole, stop road building and start investing in efficient public transport to give people real travel choices.”

Notes to editors
[1] The 44 schemes for which costs are available primarily entered the roads programme between 2003 and 2005 (although a few entered between 2000 and 2002, and one in 1998). The total cost at programme entry was £4.45 billion, and the programme is now expected to cost between £6.86 and £8.12 billion.

[2] On 16 July, the Department for Transport released a ‘command paper’ called ‘Roads - delivering choice and reliability’. On page 30 the report states, "It is estimated that 89% of the current delay caused by congestion is in our urban areas". Announcing the report, Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport, said, "The majority of congestion is in our towns and cities, where the answer cannot be building new roads.” (see the command paper and accompanying speech).

[3] The roads in the Highways Agency programme are overwhelmingly motorways and inter-urban A-roads. The four roads whose costs increased the most are the A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton (from £490 million to £1.2 billion - a £708 million increase), A1 Dishforth to Barton (£225 to £752 million - a £527 million increase), the A46 Newark - Widmerpool Improvement (£82 to £506 million - a £424 million increase), and the A3 Hindhead (£107 to £381 million - a £274 million increase).

[4] In July, the Department for Transport released the latest cost estimates, which showed that the cost of building local schemes had risen 56%, from £1.3 billion at programme entry to £2 billion. Therefore, the cost of the whole of the roadbuilding programme is at least £10 billion.