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Ministers secretly approve £1 billion increase in roads costs

18 March 2008
Campaign for Better Transport [1] has discovered transport ministers have secretly approved over £1 billion of cost increases for road schemes in the past year alone.

This additional price tag to the taxpayer comes at a time when the Department for Transport is supposed to be getting to grips with roads cost increases in the wake of the Nichols [2] and National Audit Office [3] reports of March 2007. The department is expected to publish the latest estimates of Highways Agency road schemes imminently, and Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has said, “I am clear there are going to be tough decisions on roads ahead.” [4]

Since July 2007, using Freedom of Information legislation, Campaign for Better Transport has tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to get the department to publish the latest ministerially approved costs of schemes in the Highway Agency’s major roads programme. The organisation has now made a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office. The latest costs were revealed only after three Parliamentary questions were asked by Norman Baker MP [5].

The figures show that approved increases in seven road schemes total £1.149 billion:

 

  • A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton: Was £490 million, now £944 million. Increase: £454 million
  • M1 J10 to J13 Widening: Was £382 million, now £601 million. Increase: £219 million
  • M25 J16 to J23 Widening DBFO: Was £496 million, now £697 million. Increase: £201 million
  • M25 J27 to J30 Widening DBFO: Was £402 million, now £583 million. Increase: £181 million
  • A5 - M1 Link (Dunstable Northern Bypass): Was £48 million, now £124 million. Increase: £76 million
  • M40 Junction 15 (Longbridge Roundabout): Was £57 million, now £71 million. Increase: £14 million
  • M25 J28/A12 Brook Street Interchange ECI: Was £8 million; now £12 million. Increase: £4 million

(The first cost is the ministerially approved cost in the Nichols report of March 2007, the second is the cost revealed in March 2008 through a Parliamentary question.)

 

Rebecca Lush Blum, roads and climate campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport said:
"The Government’s secret rubber-stamping of road costs is inexcusable. Road building is bad value for money, doesn’t solve our traffic problems and is bad for the environment. The Government should sort out its transport spending, directing more money into the transport schemes that will help us, like public transport."

Notes to editors
[1] Campaign for Better Transport works to secure transport policies and programmes that improve people’s quality of life whilst reducing environmental impact.

[2] Review of Highways Agency's Major Roads Programme, a report for the Secretary of State for Transport by Mike Nichols, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Nichols Group, on cost estimating and the management of the Highways Agency's major roads programme, March 2007, Appendix 3, sheet 3 and 4 of 6

[3] Estimating and Monitoring the Costs of Building Roads in England, National Audit Office, March 2007

[4] Ruth Kelly, evidence to the Transport Select Committee, 30 January 2008

[5] Latest ministerially approved costs of schemes in the Highways Agency's Major Roads Programme. Written Answer, Tom Harris, 6 March 2008, Hansard Column 2762-3W