Bidding has opened for a share of a £490m fund to help councils tackle congestion and provide upgrades to local roads.
The cash represents two years of funding from the £1.3bn National Productivity Investment Fund, announced at the Autumn Statement.
Last month councils and leading figures in the highways sector reacted with dismay at the return of competitive bidding for the fund. The 2017/18 allocation of £185m was done on a formula basis.
Transport minister Andrew Jones said: ‘We are investing record amounts on our roads – spending more than £23bn on providing better journeys for motorists.
‘We are also committing a further £1.3bn up to 2020 to cut congestion and provide important upgrades to ensure our roads are fit for the future.'
The Department for Transport (DfT) said bids are encouraged for a wide variety of schemes that will cut congestion, including by making use of technology and by opening up the data held by local councils. Transport Network understands that key mainteance work will also be considered.
It said the competition will run until 30 June and councils ‘will be provided with details of how to bid’. A spokesperson said the DfT would be engaging directly with councils.
The department said the first £185m tranche is already making a difference. It cited schemes in the North to improve roads in Blackpool, provide better access to the M65 near Blackburn, and improve the A483 and A55 for the expansion of Chester Business Park.
It added that said that in the South West, ‘it’s supporting infrastructure for growth and is likely to include a critical link in Bridgwater supporting construction of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and housing development in south Bridgwater’.
The NPIF also includes £220m for Highways England to spend on congestion relief schemes at identified traffic hotspots. This is providing £90m for ‘pinch point’ projects in the North, £23m for the Midlands, £53m for the South East, £32m for the South West and £16m for the East.