Businesses would welcome the Government’s pledge to spend £30 billion on English road improvements and should see the announcement as a key part of its Brexit preparations, said a leading logistics expert.
David Johnson, managing director of Leeds-based Tudor International Freight said the funding represented a 40% increase on the current five-year highways plan and had been acclaimed by the Government as “the biggest-ever cash injection for England’s largest roads.”
The funding becomes available in 2020 – at the end of which the UK’s transition period after it leaves the EU on 29 March next year is due to conclude – and covers the period to 2025.
Earmarked for strategically important routes, such as motorways, the investment will be used for building, improvements and upgrades, as well as easing congestion. It includes £3.5 billion for major routes under the remit of local councils.
The £30 billion is to be augmented by £420 million for remedying potholes, bridge repairs and other more minor works, which, the Government has said, will be available immediately. This is on top of the annual £1 billion highways maintenance budget and recently-announced £300 million pothole repair fund.
“This investment is vital if our industry is to be truly competitive after Brexit, as companies will need to move goods to and from ports, airports and other destinations as easily and quickly as possible. Currently, congestion and other problems with our road system cost businesses, including freight forwarders like us, considerable time and money each year, with a proportion of the expense in our industry having, unfortunately, to be passed on to customers,” said Mr Johnson.
“Highways are a crucial part of our transport infrastructure, in dire need of improvement, and we feel that businesses will therefore share our view that this Treasury income being used to directly benefit the people and organisations who provide it is a thoroughly desirable development,” he added.
Regarding other recent Government announcements, Mr Johnson said businesses and their freight forwarders would also welcome the continued freeze in fuel duty, now pegged for a ninth consecutive year. This was, he said, a step which could be seen in the same pre-Brexit light as the road improvement programme.
Mr Johnson said the issue of the Brexit negotiations continued to dwarf all others for firms trading with the EU, and the UK generally.