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Road cost escalation worse than NAO suggests

15 March 2007
Campaign group Transport 2000 [1] welcomes the publication of two reports criticising the cost increases of the Government`s road-building programme [2], but warns the final bill to the taxpayer could be even higher.

The NAO report shows that costs on future Highways Agency schemes are already running at an average of 27% above initial cost estimates, and that Government-funded local authority schemes are over budget by 31%. But those figures may be out of date, since recent Government figures show that many schemes the NAO looked at have risen in price dramatically. For example [3]:


  • Bexhill to Hastings Relief Road: Latest estimated cost is £89 million (up 89% from original estimate of £47 million). The NAO report uses a cost of £51.6 million.
  • The A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton scheme: Latest estimated cost of the preferred route is £639 million (up 30% from original estimate of £490 million). The NAO report uses a price of £490 million
  • The A3 Hindhead Improvement: Approved cost is now £370.9 million (up 247% from original estimate of £107 million). The NAO report uses a figure of £239 million

"The Government needs to get a grip on the escalating costs of a roads programme that is spiralling out of control. Whilst tram schemes have been cut due to cost increases, not a single road scheme has fallen under the axe. It’s time for the Government to provide taxpayers with value-for-money travel choices rather than expensive road building and increased traffic," says Rebecca Lush, Transport 2000’s roads and climate campaigner. [4]


Notes to Editors

[1] 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.

[2] Estimating and monitoring the costs of building roads in England, a report by the National Audit Office, was published 15 March 2007. See http://www.nao.org.uk/whatsnew.asp. The NAO announced its inquiry in a letter to Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman Tom Brake MP on 8 March 2006.

The Nichols Report, looking at cost escalation on Highways Agency road schemes, was published on 14 March 2007: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/nicholsreport

[3] Reference for road costs:


[4] In 2005-6, the Department for Transport controversially pulled the funding for a number of tram schemes in Leeds, Liverpool and South Hampshire. The NAO is investigating the Department for Transport’s handling of trams funding and due to report in late spring 2007. Please see http://www.nao.org.uk/pn/07-08/0708_light_rail_scheme.htm