The way England's strategic road network is managed will change from April this year after the Infrastructure Act became law last week, paving the way for the Highways Agency to become Highways England.
The Infrastructure Act allows for the creation of the new government-owned company and provides the legal framework for the Government’s £15bn road investment strategy across the next parliament.
Westminster hopes the long-term funding platform for the arms-length company will help drive down procurement and delivery costs and make the group more directly accountable to Parliament and to road users.
Holding the reformed agency to account will be the Strategic Road Network Monitor (SRNM), a unit acting as a semi-autonomous part of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) and working solely on roads.
Drivers interests will also be championed by Passenger Focus, to be renamed Transport Focus, which represents bus, tram and rail passengers in England outside London, and will represent the users of the strategic road network.
The Act also provides the first legal obligation on Westminster to develop a national cycling strategy with funding commitments.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the Act would hugely boost Britain’s competitiveness in transport and nationally significant infrastructure projects.
‘A key part of this act will be the creation of Highways England, which will for the first time use long-term sustained funding to deliver the government’s roads investment strategy, worth £15bn, to deliver more than 100 schemes between now and the end of the next Parliament,’ he said.
‘Good transport is fundamental in helping our economy grow, which is why the government is making record levels of investment. That’s why we’re building a transport system that helps you get on and get around. Through the creation of Highways England we expect to see savings to the taxpayer of at least £2.6bn over the next 10 years.’
A clause to end ‘unreasonable and excessive’ delays on projects that already have been granted planning permission is also included, through a new ‘deemed discharge’ provision on planning conditions.