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Roads to Nowhere

Judgement due soon on rising road costs

28 February 2007
In the next two weeks we expect the publication of two important reviews into why road costs go up so much. The first, 'the Nichols review', is looking at roads the Highways Agency manages; the second, a review by the National Audit Office, is examining how the Department for Transport manages cost increases on both Highways Agency and local authority roads. [1]

Transport 2000 [2] looks forward to reading the conclusions of these reviews, because our investigations reveal the Department for Transport has allowed 16 Highways Agency roads to grow in cost by £600 million in just the last nine months (see table below). And costs may rise more before all those roads are built. Last year, the Transport Select Committee accused the Highways Agency of ‘losing budgetary control’[3].

Though the Department has never rejected a road scheme because of cost increases, it has scrapped tram schemes which have risen in cost - for example in Leeds, Liverpool and South Hampshire - and has expressed concern about rail projects that rise in cost. The Department needs to be consistent in its treatment of transport projects and be prepared to scrap roads that go over budget.

“When the price of a road goes up, taxpayers pay. It would be irresponsible to continue to pour money into roads without being sure they are providing value for money. We don’t believe they are providing value for money. They are being mismanaged by the Highways Agency and local authorities and the Department for Transport is not controlling the cost increases," says Rebecca Lush, roads and climate campaigner.

The nine-month, £600 million price jump: Rises in roads costs

Notes to editors

1. Dr Stephen Ladyman MP announced the Nichols review in a Parliamentary answer on 24 July 2006: "The Secretary of State has now asked Mike Nichols, Chairman of the Nichols Group, to review the Highways Agency approach to cost estimating and project management, and to make recommendations, including on how the agency should best assess, monitor and report on risks to its cost estimates."

www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm060724/text/60724w1873.htm#column_746W

The National Audit Office announced its inquiry into roads costs in March 06: http://www.nao.org.uk/pn/06-07/0607321.htm.

2 Transport 2000 is an independent campaigning and research body that represents the key transport interests of around 40 environmental groups, transport organisations and transport unions. We bring together people who seek to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport through encouraging less use of cars, lorries and planes and more use of rail, buses, trams, cycling and walking.

[3] Transport Select Committee, Ninth Report of the Session 2005-6