Road resurfacing cash announced by Government for North East after HS2 leg scrapped

Roads across the North East are set to benefit from a Government cash boost as part of a major road resurfacing programme.

Local authorities in our region, including County Durham, Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland and the Tees Valley Combined Authority, will each receive a share of £544m of redirected HS2 funding. They can then use the funds to repairs roads most in need of resurfacing.

Across the North East, local highway authorities will receive £8m this financial year, followed by a further £8m for 2024/2025, with the rest of the funding allocated through to 2034. The announcement comes as Transport Secretary Mark Harper set out the allocations of an £8.3bn national long-term plan, enough to resurface over 5,000 miles of road across the country over the next 11 years.

The cash has been redirected from the HS2 high speed railway project after it was announced earlier this year that the Birmingham to Manchester section would no longer be built. The Prime Minister instead pledged to pump money into other transport upgrades across the North and Midlands.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “For too long politicians have shied away from taking the right long-term decisions to make life easier for hardworking families – tackling the scourge of potholes being a prime example. Well-maintained road surfaces could save drivers up to £440 each in expensive vehicle repairs, helping motorists keep more of the cash in their pocket. This unprecedented £8.3bn investment will pave the road for better and safer journeys for millions of people across the country and put an end to the blight of nuisance potholes.”

It has already been confirmed that £5.5bn will be set aside for 2020/21 to 2024/25 for England outside London, which includes the £200m announced by the Chancellor at the Budget in March. Today’s £8.3bn nationwide boost comes on top of that and extends until 2034, providing long-term certainty to local authorities and helping to prevent potholes from coming back in the future.

The funding also comes on top of the local transport, road and rail budgets allocated at the last Spending Review and in addition to what local authorities were already expecting for the next decade.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Most people travel by road and potholes can cause misery for motorists, from expensive vehicle repairs to bumpy, slow, and dangerous journeys. Our £544m boost to repair roads across the North East shows that we’re on the side of drivers. Today’s biggest ever funding uplift for local road improvements is a victory for all road users, who will enjoy smoother, faster and safer trips – as we use redirected HS2 funding to make the right long-term decisions for a brighter future.”

Other North East projects previously announced include the long-awaited dualling of the A1 between Morpeth and Ellingham, a £460m package to deliver of 21 smaller road schemes, including the Blyth Relief Road, and nearly £4bn to improve local connectivity through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS).

The funding builds on regulations announced in April this year to crack down on utility companies causing pothole pain with botched street works, through stricter inspections and costs for the worst offenders.

According to a survey from the AA, fixing potholes and investing in roads maintenance is a priority for 96% of drivers in the North East. According to the RAC, smoother, well-maintained road surfaces could save drivers up to £440 each in expensive vehicle repairs from pothole damage, helping motorists keep more of the cash in their pocket.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “Drivers’ biggest bugbear of all is the poor condition of local roads, so the fact the Government has found a significant additional pot of revenue should give councils the certainty of funding they need to plan proper long-term road maintenance, something we have been calling for many years. We hope local authorities will use the money in the most effective way possible by resurfacing the very worst roads, keeping those in reasonable condition in better states for longer through surface dressing, and filling potholes as permanently as possible wherever necessary.

“This should in time go a considerable way to bringing our roads back to a fit-for-purpose state and saving drivers hundreds of pounds in the process from not having to fork out for frustrating repairs to their vehicles.”

To increase transparency and ensure the £8.3bn leads to an increase in the number of roads being resurfaced, local authorities will be required to publish information on their websites on a regular basis explaining how they are spending the funding in their area. The measure is a key part of the Government’s Network North plan, with money redirected from HS2, instead going into daily transport connections.

Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: “Perilous roads blighted by potholes are the number one concern for drivers and a major issue for bikers, cyclists and pedestrians. So far this year The AA has attended more than 450,000 pothole related breakdowns. The damage caused can be a huge financial burden for drivers but is also a major safety risk for those on two wheels.

“The £8.3bn plan can make a considerable difference in bringing our roads back to the standards which road users expect, especially if councils use the cash efficiently to resurface our streets. As well as safer roads, eliminating potholes gives confidence to people wanting to cycle and instils pride of place within local communities.”

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