The government has announced £15bn of spending on Britain’s road network, focused on marginal Conservative and Liberal Democrat constituencies. The plans include an upgrade of the entire A303 in South West along with a new tunnel near Stonehenge.
The project is the largest road building programme for half a century, but most of it had already been announced on previous occasions. This led the government to stress that this was a five year investment plan to prevent the Highway’s Agency “wasting money” on short-term solutions to problems.
In total, 1,300 miles of new lanes will be constructed as part of a hundred road improvement schemes. Charging points will also be placed every 20 miles on certain routes to encourage the use of electric cars.
The improvements included the major upgrade to the A1 in Berwick-upon-Tweed, however this did cause some resentment locally as both coalition parties attempted to take credit. The Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith is standing down and the Conservatives are hoping to take the seat next year.
The credit-taking did not end in Berwick, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg spent most of the day out on separate tours. They were keen to make clear they have delivered help for MPs who are vulnerable because of coalition unpopularity.
Labour shadow Michael Dugher launched an attack on the announcement in the House of Commons, although it was unclear whether a Miliband government would cancel it. He said: “We know that the current governments sudden interest in roads has more to with the forthcoming general election than it does with the transport needs of the country.
“This is a sort of sad attempt at motorways for the marginals. New lanes for soon to be defeated liberal democrats. Trunk roads for Tories about to be turfed out by Labour.
“Ministers will be judged not on what they say they will do after the next general election, but on what they have actually done since the last general. And the sad truth for Britain’s hard pressed road users is that this is a desperate pre-election move from a government that has failed to deliver on our national strategic road, and when it comes to our important local roads the reality is things have got much much worse.”
This is the first major taste of what will be announced by the Chancellor at the Autumn Statement on Wednesday.