Road projects spared under Spending Review

PD-Dartford-crossingRoad-building projects and the Electric Vehicle grant have escaped the axe under the Government’s spending review. But while motorway widening projects worth £10 billion will still go ahead, road maintenance spending will be cut, and the cost of using the Dartford crossing will rise 66% to £2.50.

The Department for Transport said the charges could rise from £1.50 to £2 next year for cars, rising again to £2.50 in 2012. The DfT added the increased toll charges would be subject to consultation. The crossing carries around 150,000 vehicles every day.

The Department for Transport and the Highways Agency are developing options to improve the crossing. These include exploring a new additional crossing; using free flow charging to improve efficiency; and removing charges to aid flow when congestion is most severe.

Chancellor George Osborne outlined the plans for road improvements as part of the Spending Review, which covers the four financial years to the end of 2014-15 and aims to reduce the UK budget deficit by £81 bn. Projects that will go ahead include:

■ Widening of the M25 being widened between ten different junctions

■ Introduction of hard shoulder running and variable speed limits on the M1 between junctions 10-13 and 28-31

■ £90 million on expanding the capacity of the M62 in Yorkshire and Humberside and hard shoulder running and variable speed limits between junctions 25 and 30

■ Improvements to the M4 and M5 junction in the South West including hard shoulder running and variable speed limits north of Bristol

■ The A11 between the M11 and Norwich will being upgraded to a continuous dual carriageway

■ Construction of a new Mersey Gateway bridge

The Chancellor also signalled the Government’s intention to encourage the private sector to become increasingly involved in road transport provision: “We will encourage new providers in road management,” he said, suggesting that more toll roads like the M6 Toll motorway in the west midlands could be built.

The total transport budget for the next four years is £30bn – more than in the previous four years. The plans will be outlined in detail by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond next week.

Investing tens of billions of pounds in the economic infrastructure of the UK was, said the Chancellor, achievable as a result of the decisions taken to make real reductions in waste and reforms to welfare.

The Government Spending Review confirmed the availability from January next year of grants of up to £5,000 to help businesses and private motorists purchase electric vehicles. The previous Labour administration had initially announced the grants, which were then reconfirmed by the coalition Government in the June Budget.

Initially grants worth £43 million will be made available. The grants will reduce the up-front cost of eligible vehicles by up to 25%, capped at £5,000. Funding has been agreed to March 31, 2012. The Government will review grant funding in January 2012 when it will set the levels of subsidy for 2012-13 and beyond.

The Government also revealed it would pay for some of the cost by converting some vehicles driven by Highways Agency transport officers to LPG or sharing fuel depots with other contractors. And the Government is to implement new standard guidance on travel policies in a bid to save £100m a year, through central buying of car rental and other efficiency savings.

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