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Road management proposals 'could save millions'

Wed, 30 Oct 2013

£2.6 MILLION IN TAXES could be saved over the next decade by reforming how roads are managed, the Department for Transport has said.

Roads Minister Robert Goodwill unveiled a consultation on turning the Highways Agency into a Government-owned company.

In a statement to MPs, Mr Goodwill said the reforms would mean the creation of a "road user watchdog" similar to Passenger Focus on the railways.

And he said it would mean better long term planning for the spending of £28 billion in roads investment by 2022.

The Highways Agency is responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of motorways and other main A-roads in England.

Mr Goodwill said: "The Government believes that the proposals set out in this consultation provide the freedom and flexibility for the roads operator to deliver efficiently and effectively without day-to-day interference from central government.

"At the same time, they put in place sufficient accountability and safeguards to ensure that the roads are run responsibly and in the public interest.

"It is expected that these reforms will enable cost savings for the taxpayer of at least £2.6 billion over 10 years."

Mr Goodwill said the Government planned to legislate to carry out the reforms next year.

The AA cautiously backed the proposals. Head of road policy Paul Watters said: "There will be some 'devil in the detail' but the AA welcomes the Government making it clear that this will not be a route leading to charging for use of strategic roads.

"Our strategic roads are vital to the UK economy and people expect them to be kept in excellent repair and as uncongested as possible.

"There may be some public concern about putting this hugely valuable highway asset onto a semi-commercial footing and also transferring highway authorities' legal duties to the company. Therefore, there must be formal safeguards, watchdogs and scrutiny."

By Tim Sculthorpe, Press Association