Highways England announces new plan to fast track upgrades of England’s busiest roads

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Highways England has said it will cut prolonged disruption from roadworks via its new plan to fast track upgrades of England’s busiest roads. The roads authority states it will close roads completely if it means it can do its work quicker and cut overall disruption. As part of the plan, in some cases Highways England shall build more structures offsite and then lift them onto the network.

Highways England announces new plan to fast track upgrades of England’s busiest roads
Photo © Copyright Robin Webste

According to Highways England, the new strategy could save months, even years of inconvenience that partial closures can cause.

In addition, Highways England claims the new approach will:

  • save taxpayer money
  • reduce the impact on local communities and drivers
  • lead to lower carbon emissions from construction equipment
  • reduce the risks to our workers’ safety

Highways England stresses that it will consult local communities before any full closures. It shall also consider appropriate diversion routes and the impact on homes, businesses, hospitals and nearby events before making decisions.

In its statement, Highways England explains that full road closures to complete major road schemes supports the vision set out by the UK Government’s 'Project Speed’ initiative. Announced in summer 2020, the initiative aims to speed up work on infrastructure projects and stimulate the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The road authority’s construction of a new bridge over the M42 for the HS2 rail scheme has been cited as an example of this. By installing the new bridge through two week long closures (over Christmas 2021 and 2022 when traffic is lightest), Highways England says it can avoid 18 months of disruption conventional methods would bring.

On top of that, when Highways England does maintenance work, it claims it can get the maximum benefit out of road closures if it tackles as many jobs as it can on the same stretch of road at the same time.

With regards to this, the roads authority says combining maintenance works between M53 junctions has resulted in:

  • 5,000 less hours that our workforce had to be exposed to moving traffic
  • 10 fewer times that we had to cone lanes or use traffic management

Finally, Highways England states that increasing full closures is part of a package of measures designed to cut the disruption of roadworks. It is also considering:

  • expanding the 'highest safe speed’ approach to roadworks
  • improved diversion signs and information for road users
  • improved roadside communication to drivers
  • decluttering work sites and roadsides
  • more ways for you to report problems on our roads

Commenting on the Highways England announcement, the RHA said:

“Our members need to have travel that is congestion free with predictable, reliable and consistent journey times. Delays cost our members, cost the economy, and cost the environment through unnecessary additional emissions. Measures that can be taken to reduce this impact is welcome.  Where diversions are in place we need to see clear and adequate signage.”


Photo © Copyright Robin Webster and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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