Today’s issues, tomorrow’s Budget


The chancellor has announced the date of his Budget: 22 November. Philip Hammond faces the unenviable task of balancing the books.

Steve Gooding RAC Foundation and former DfT director

The numbers involved are huge and the options available limited by both practicalities and politics. That is why Treasury ministers and officials alike are inherently reluctant to issue long-term pledges of funding, which will inevitably further constrain their room for manoeuvre.

All the more remarkable, then, that the previous chancellor, George Osborne, signed up to the five-year financial settlement in the first Road Investment Strategy (RIS1), giving Highways England certainty over the funding available. Yes, it only applied to the motorways and major A roads in Highways England’s stewardship, but after all, they are the most important roads, aren’t they?

Up to a point, because last year’s Rees Jeffreys Road Fund report by David Quarmby and Phil Carey identified a rather larger Major Road Network (MRN). It encompasses the Strategic Road Network (SRN) but – based on their assessment of the roads that serve an economically significant national and regional purpose – goes further.

What might chancellor Hammond have to say about these roads when he shares his fiscal thinking with us in November?

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has indicated his support for identifying the additional miles of major road – the Rees Jeffreys work went only as far as publishing an indicative network – and for making some money available from the Road Fund, soon to be fed by income from Vehicle Excise Duty.

So long as that doesn’t undermine the scale and certainty of investment planning at Highways England it is all sounding positive so far. But there are still some potentially tricky issues to be worked through, starting with the fairly obvious fact that however they are eventually defined, the major roads beyond the SRN will inevitably be the responsibility of numerous separate highway authorities. How best to divvy up the cash?

Precedent suggests a challenge fund of some sort is on the cards. Hands up if you remember the ‘local majors’ fund?

Keep them raised if you relish the thought of another competitive bidding round. Without wanting to look an investment funding gift horse in the mouth, competitions invariably come with an overhead of bidding costs, not to mention the inevitable row about the way web-based transport analysis guidance (WebTAG) values costs and benefits.

That is why the emerging sub-national transport bodies (STBs) are important. Who better to take a view on regional significance? That said, not everywhere has an STB…yet.

So, we have the prospect of money on the table to back the recognition that journeys rarely, if ever, begin and end on the SRN. But let us not lose sight of two other important factors.

First, in defining the MRN, Quarmby and Carey identified something including the SRN, not merely additional and separate to it. In some places the MRN fills gaps in the SRN; in others it provides resilience – an alternative route in the event of disruption.

When it comes to thinking about the stretches of route that need enhancement we need a joined-up process between STBs, highway authorities and Highways England.

The Rees Jeffreys report stopped short of advocating a large-scale re-trunking exercise, but the test of the DfT’s approach will be whether it can foster and encourage co-operation, not only in thinking about what’s needed but also about how and when it might be best delivered.

Second, let us not forget the issues of operation and maintenance. New schemes and the ribbon cutting that goes with them are beloved of politicians but we already have a network that is pretty well-developed. Joined-up thinking extends to operational decisions and funding pressures are keenly felt on maintenance budgets.

November might bring some answers but, just like RIS 1, our best hope is that they are a further step in the right direction on a journey that will stretch well beyond the autumn of 2017.

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

Director, Governance and Improvement

City of York Council
£87,623 to £97,149
We are looking for an exceptional individual to be appointed to the position of Director of Governance and Improvement. York, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of York Council

Senior Team Leader

Redbridge London Borough Council
£35,992 to £38,994 per annum inclusive
Looking for individuals with initiative, evidence of experience in managing a street cleansing service and motivating... Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Road Safety Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,589 - £31,371
We are looking for a candidate who can participate in developing and delivering technically sound highway engineering solutions. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Information Management Officer x 2 Jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£24,799 - £26,317
Looking for better and smarter ways to operate and you will play a key role working across a broad range of service... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Graduate Engineer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£24,313 - £28,785 per annum
This is an exciting new opportunity in the Highway Services team to play a pivotal role in creating a safe and... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Chief Fire Officer

West Sussex County Council
Competitive Salary plus Financial Support for Recruitment and Retention
We are looking for an exceptional individual who can lead our Fire & Rescue Service Chichester, West Sussex
Recuriter: West Sussex County Council

School Crossing Patrol

Brent Council
£21,591 - £22,377 p.a. inc. pro rata.
Looking for someone that is friendly, has great communication skills and enjoys working with children. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Engineer (Highway Design)

Darlington Borough Council
£31,371 - £33,799
Looking to employ an experienced person within the Highway Design team to meet the challenge of enabling development... Darlington, Durham
Recuriter: Darlington Borough Council

Project Manager – Major Maintenance and Infrastructure Projects 

Liverpool City Council
£42,683 - £47,491 
The successful candidate will ensure that effective procurement and delivery of highways maintenance and improvement. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Green Space Development Manager

Camden London Borough Council
£45,504 - £52,786
The successful candidate will join a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team and contribute to our commitment to deliver for... Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Green Space Project Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£40,829 - £47,360
The successful candidate will join a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team and contribute to our commitment to deliver for the people of Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Senior Principal Planning Officer - Fixed Term

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£39.774 - £42.684
Looking for key members of the team that will be instrumental in transforming the Borough and opportunities available for residents.  Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Career Grade Planner

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£27228 - £36711
In this role you will deal primarily with small-scale planning applications covering a wide range of planning issues. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Career Grade Planning Officer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£27.228 - £36.711
We offer a great opportunity to develop your career with a positive approach to development and a desire to put... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Director of Place and Communities

Ashfield District Council
As the Director for Place and Communities you will provide strategic and operational leadership across a range of key services including Waste... Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: Ashfield District Council

Highways Operative - 3 Jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£18,426 - £21,166 (plus 20% enhancement if working in the night team)
You will be responsible for providing effective maintenance and development of the Kirklees road network carrying out a range of highway works. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Rights of Way Officer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£26,470 - £28,221
The purpose of the role is to implement and advise on the maintenance, protection, improvement and promotion of access... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Road Safety and Sustainable Transport Assistant

Telford & Wrekin Council
£11.41 - £12.35 per hour
Are you passionate about Road Safety, and want to help educate road users and develop their skills? Wrekin, Telford
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council


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

Head of Highways Infrastructure

Leeds City Council
£72,397 - £79,637
Seeking an exceptional candidate for the position of Head of Highways Infrastructure to lead on the authority’s duty to... Leeds, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Leeds City Council