Highways England and the Road Investment Strategy (RIS)

This paper explains about the Road Investment Strategy (RIS) – the five-yearly programme of major investments on the Strategy Road Network by Highways England. It outlines what the RIS is and how it is set, implemented, funded and monitored.

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Highways England (HE) is a body corporate, established on 8 December 2014. On 1 April 2015 it was appointed as a strategic highways company by the Secretary of State for Transport by way of an Order in accordance with section 1 of the Infrastructure Act 2015.  HE is the highway, street and traffic authority for the Strategic Road Network (SRN).

The SRN comprises approximately 4,300 miles of motorways and major ‘trunk’ A-roads in England. While the SRN represents only around two per cent of the total length of England’s road network, the Department for Transport estimates that it carries roughly one-third of the total motor vehicle traffic.

The establishment of HE included a multi-year funding settlement, called a Roads Investment Strategy (RIS). To date there have been two RISs:

  • RIS 1 ran from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2020. It included a headline £15.2 billion investment figure. Major schemes announced as part of RIS 1 included the controversial Stonehenge Tunnel, completion of the M62 smart motorway, and dualling the A1 from London to Ellingham.
  • RIS 2 began operating on 1 April 2020 and will run until 31 March 2025. It is funded directly from motoring taxes – Vehicle Excise Duty – via a roads fund. The RIS 2 budget is £27.4 billion. RIS 2 was published alongside the 2020 Budget, which highlighted three schemes that are part of RIS 2: dualling the A66 Trans-Pennine route, upgrading the A46 Newark bypass, and building the Lower Thames Crossing. HE has also been asked to make £2.3 billion of additional savings on operating and capital expenditure during RIS 2.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the statutory ‘monitor’ of HE and its delivery of the RIS programme. Transport Focus is the statutory road user ‘champion’: it publishes an annual Strategic Roads User Survey and other work on issues such as the adequacy of information provided by HE to its users.

Campaigners are currently trying to raise funds to bring a judicial review against the Government over RIS 2 on grounds of climate change and air quality.

Background on the SRN and HE can be found in Commons Library briefing paper Strategic Road Network (SRN), CBP 1448, August 2015. Papers on other road-related issues are available on the Commons Library website.

Please note that this paper is England-specific. The management and funding of the major road networks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are devolved:

  • Transport Scotland has a directorate dedicated to managing Scotland’s trunk road network.
  • The Welsh trunk road network is operated, maintained and improved by two public sector organisations: North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent (Gwynedd Council) and South Wales Trunk Road Agent (Neath Port Talbot CBC).
  • DfI Roads is the sole road authority in Northern Ireland, responsible for public roads, footways, bridges, and street lights.
  • Commons Research Briefing CBP-8899
  • Author: Louise Butcher
  • Topics: Roads

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