Road network: growth and speed

Photography by Nigel Green at

Road network: growth and speed

It might not be often that road haulage operators turn to the government with thanks, but two developments during the summer of 2014 are likely to prove more than welcome by the industry as a whole.

Growth of the road network

England is a small country on a small island. News that an additional 900 lane miles of roads are planned to expand the existing network by 2021 is a very significant step forward in creating the capacity needed for the future health of the road haulage industry.

On the 26th of August 2014, HGV UK reported comments by the Minister for Roads, John Hayes, that the government intends to create 35% more capacity on the road network during the period up to 2021 than was delivered in the nine years up to 2010.

This is being done at a cost of some £3 billion every year until 2021 – or triple the current levels of investment.

According to John Hayes, some 574 new lane miles of roadway were built during the period 2001 to 2010. The present government, however, is planning to construct 60 new road schemes, with most of them expected to be open for use by 2021. Taken together, these proposed new schemes will result in the creation of 962 extra lane miles.

If this itself was not good news enough, the Minister also revealed plans later in the year to add still more schemes to the road-building programme – some of them designed to tackle the most notorious bottlenecks and holdups on the national road network.

An estimated £2.6 billion saving to the public purse during the next ten years is also said to be achieved by turning the Highways Agency into a government-owned company.

The speed limit for heavy goods vehicles

The haulage industry’s Fleet News, in a report in July 2014, revealed that the speed limit for lorries over 7.5 tonnes in weight might soon be raised from 40 mph to 50 mph on single carriage roads. The government is also consulting the industry about raising the speed limit for the same vehicles from 50 mph to 60 mph on dual carriageways.

The current speed limits have been in use for some 50 years or so and the changes – just as the increase in the road network itself – are intended to help cut congestion, reduce overtaking in dangerous situations, and so contribute to road safety in the wider scheme of things. By making roads safer, there may also be a longer-term reduction in the cost of HGV insurance.

The government has also announced its intention to conduct a major study into road safety on the rural road network sometime in the near future.

The new 50 mph limit on single carriageways is said to be coming into effect early in 2015, with the 60 mph limit on dual carriageways coming into force at the same time, subject to the completion of the current consultation process.

The proposed changes have already received approval from both the RAC and the Freight Transport Association (FTA). The road safety pressure group, Brake, however, has voiced its disappointment and concern.