Major road network maps released but not made public

 

The Department for Transport (DfT) has released a map of the major road network (MRN) to sub-national transport bodies (STBs) in advance of scheme bids being handed in this summer.

The maps were released to authorities late last year but have not been made public, which has caused some surprise in the sector.

DfT guidance for MRN bids called for up to 10 top priority schemes but to even be considered for MRN funding 'a local or third-party contribution of at least 15% of the total scheme costs' must have been secured.

'The Department's contribution for MRN interventions will normally be between £20m and £50m,' the guidelines state.

”Local

The DfT has maintained the same eligibility criteria for MRN schemes it announced in response to the initial consultation and removed any definition of what a ‘fit for purpose’ MRN and common performance metrics across the network are needed.

DfT officials told Transport Network that while the MRN map has not been published, it has been made available to organisations and bodies that will be directly involved in the investment planning process.

Highways England has also received the map, and ‘strongly supports the decision to create a network of major roads that work closely with, and complement, Highways England’s strategic road network of motorways and major A roads’.

‘We are working with sub-national transport bodies and local highway authorities to deliver those improvements.’

One source suggested the DfT might be nervous about revealing the national map as it might still be being refined and have some contentious gaps in the network. However senior figures from two other, separate, STBs said they were happy with the network in their region, which was broadly similar to the one originally imagined by David Quarmby and Phil Carey in their original Rees Jeffreys Road Fund report.

They added that there had been some 'wins' for their areas, suggesting that the DfT had 'listened' to the evidence cases put forward by STBs.

The lack of transparency could add to concerns voiced by some STB sources that once they have prioritised schemes in regional evidence bases (REB), the choice of which scheme to advance could become a political decision in central government.

One source said: 'The first round of MRN funding is likely to be politically driven.'

They suggested there might be an element of catch-up on the network and fine tuning of the process before MRN 2 would see the concept progressed.

DfT guidance states: 'Final investment decisions will also take account of a full range of factors, including the geographical balance of schemes and timescales for delivery to ensure a smooth spending profile.'

A DfT spokesperson said: 'All organisations directly involved in the next stage of the Major Road Network scheme have been given the guidance they need to submit their applications.

'We are committed to investing in this network of the busiest and most economically important local authority ‘A’ roads.'

Large local majors

Large local major (LLM) transport schemes - £50m plus projects – are to be rolled up into the MRN funding for 2020-2025; however there is no indication yet as to what the split would be between the two.

There is expected to be £3.5bn made available through the National Roads Fund from 2020-2025 for schemes outside of the strategic road network.

'You don't have to have too many LLMs before that pot is eaten into. We don't know what the balance is between the two or any indicative funding for each region,' said one STB source.

Another senior source at directors' body ADEPT argued that it would have been easier for STBs if they had indicative regional budgets. However Highways understands there was some concern in the DfT about releasing such figures as the budget is still subject to the planned Spending Review process.

DfT guidance states: 'We would like STBs to identify and prioritise potential LLM schemes in their areas at the same time as they provide the MRN advice.

'LLM is now funded through the National Roads Fund, therefore only road schemes will be considered for the programme. Large Public Transport schemes will be expected to be funded from other programmes that have benefited from increased funding such as the Transforming Cities Fund and through Devolution Deals. The Government will consider the future funding for these as part of the Spending Review.'

Delivery

STBs or regional groupings must submit a REB this summer. This must include a list of up to 10 top priority MRN investments for the period April 2020 to March 2025. The top priority schemes scheduled to start before April 2023 should 'be developed to at least Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) stage and that the SOBC for each priority scheme should be submitted with the REB'.

The SOBC should indicate the likely cost of the scheme and the level of funding being sought for each option.

'For each scheme the Department will also need to see a credible delivery timetable, starting with the proposed date for the submission of an Outline Business Case (OBC) which the promoting authority has signed up to.'

For schemes due to start construction in 2020/21 and 2021/22, the schemes may need to already be at OBC stage. Schemes starting construction in 2022/23 should ideally be at SOBC stage, and while an SOBC does not need to be submitted for works in 2023/24 and 2024/25, 'this is still desirable'.

The DfT has made some potential development funding available to support the creation of the schemes and take some of the risk out for highway authorities, however this cash is, somewhat ironically, subject to its own application process. DfT officials also seem to be doing their best to discourage costly development processes.

‘We do not intend to place a large burden on local and regional bodies to produce and maintain extensive new regional evidence. The Department recommends that full use is made of existing data and analysis, such as local and regional transport strategies to develop the REBs. The REBs should largely be drawn from work STBs are already doing to develop their Transport Strategies.’

There is some debate about how realistic the delivery timescale is. The feeling appears to be that if schemes are new there is little time to do all the necessary groundwork to ensure it is deliverable before 2025, while if the scheme is based on ‘plans on the shelf’, or as one source put it a ‘bringing out the dead’, these schemes are likely to have a weaker evidence base.

In a statement, Midlands Connect summed up some general concerns including that ‘each region is being asked to submit its top 10 priority schemes, regardless of an area’s relative size, population or economic significance’.

‘Instead, Midlands Connect is calling on the government to provide specific regional funding allocations, in line with the government’s own Rebalancing Toolkit, which was designed to ensure local schemes boost the economy across the whole country.’ This echoes to calls of other regional bodies, including Transport for the North.

The upshot seems to be that STBs welcome the creation of the MRN, but have already moved ahead and are eyeing the MRN 2 in 2025, in the hope that by then the cash will be devolved regionally for them to have more control on integrated network basis.

This point was in turn made by a recent report on MRN management by WSP, which recommended:

  • Greater empowerment and clarity for the STBs role and responsibilities.
  • Consideration of the MRN as a natural ‘testing ground’ for on-road innovations eg road user charging, HGV platooning, autonomous/ connected vehicles, etc which could benefit UK plc.
  • STBs to be designated as the unequivocal leading bodies for directing regional transport policy, with Highways England guaranteed representation on STBs at the regional level.
  • A portion of DfT funding for the MRN programme should be allocated directly to the STBs with the intention of a) promoting regional economic rebalancing, and b) encouraging innovation and efficiency savings in delivery.
  • Business cases should be developed away from exclusive reliance on benefit cost ratios (BCRs) towards a more holistic set of criteria (regional rebalancing, settlement connectivity, etc).
  • An ‘executive council’ of STBs should be considered as a pan-STB body for direct dealing with DfT and Highways England and to drive coordination and uniformity of STB standards.

Register now for full access


Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
highways jobs

Environment Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£29,909 – £32,233 Grade 11 - £33,136 - £35,229
All Environment Officers lead, project manage and/or co-ordinate large environmental projects... Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

MCA Hub Co-ordinator

Camden London Borough Council
£40,028 - £46,431
You will lead on the co-ordination of the North and Central Area Mayor’s Construction Academy (MCA) Hub. London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Highways Estimator

Ringway
Competitive Salary
As the Highways Estimator you will join a busy environment and become an integral part of the team. Hounslow (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Ringway

County Highways Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
Seeking a highly motivated leader and an excellent communicator, who has a proven ability to build relationships and trust, leading by example. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Local Highways Manager (East) - Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolnshire County Council
G12 £43,662 - £50,430
Seeking someone who combines excellent technical knowledge with a dedication to the customer. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Assistant Director (Planning, Regeneration & Transport)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£87,791 per annum  
This is an exciting time to join Rotherham and make a real difference. We are looking for an outstanding Assistant Director who will bring... Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Corporate Director

Islington London Borough Council
Up to £135k
You will share our values and be passionate about helping us shape the Islington of the future. Islington, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Islington London Borough Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,074 - £30,756
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Junior Energy Manager Apprentice

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
The right person for this job will be pro-active and innovative in finding a way forward. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Career Grade Drainage Engineer

Swindon Borough Council
£19,092 to £40,680 p.a
Working in the asset management team, you’ll support the work of the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and Highways Authority. Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Highway Construction Project Manager

Brent Council
£50,442 - £53,526 p.a. inc.
We are looking for an accomplished highway construction project manager to support the delivery of two high priority highway schemes. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Signals & UTMC Manager

Bristol City Council
£42,683 - £45,591
Looking for someone with proven management experience, enthusiasm, creativity, vision and good communication skills. City of Bristol
Recuriter: Bristol City Council

Principal Highways Project Engineer

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
£34,106 - £35,229 per annum
The post holder will be responsible for project managing the delivery of two highway projects on the Key Route Network. Knowsley (Metropolitan borough), Merseyside
Recuriter: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Traffic Schemes Officer

Oxfordshire County Council
£22,021 - £29,636 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen to play a central role with the Traffic Team in the maintenance of the highway network... Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£29,055 to £30,756
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team! Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Engineer – Traffic Regulation

Telford & Wrekin Council
£23,866 to £25,463
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Highways Quantity Surveyor

Leicester City Council
£30,756 - £33,136 pro-rata per annum
Working in the Highways Maintenance Group, you will be responsible for the operational highway maintenance activities Leicester, Leicestershire
Recuriter: Leicester City Council

Highways Engineer/Inspector

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£22956 - £32637 per annum
Highways Engineer/Inspector - PermanentThere are plenty of reasons to take a closer look at Royal Greenwich.Royal Greenwich is undergoing a huge trans England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Engineer - Bridges

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
We have a vacancy for a Structures Engineer working within the Bridge’s team! Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
You will be required to lead the delivery of a wide range of highway improvements and maintenance projects... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council