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Whose roads? Consultation gives chance to tell DfT that cyclists use A roads too

Announcing public consultation over plans for the Highways Agency to become a government-owned company, roads minister Robert Goodwill has referred to setting up a new watchdog body that will allow “motorists to have a greater say in how their roads are run.”

Robert Goodwill is alo minister for cycling and walking.

The Highways Agency looks after the strategic road network of motorways and major A-roads, but some sections of that network are nevertheless used by cyclists because there are few or no viable alternatives.

One example is the A30 in Cornwall, where two cyclists were killed in July in a collision with a lorry. Other Highways Agency roads include sections with adjacent bike paths.

The Department for Transport plans to turn the Highways Agency into a road equivalent of Network Rail, that will manage the strategic network.

In a statement, Mr Goodwill said: “Transforming the Highways Agency into a government-owned company means long-term savings for the taxpayer, and making sure our roads are fit for the 21st century – supporting jobs and growth across the economy.

“I also want motorists to have a greater say in how their roads are run and that is why I have proposed an independent watchdog - free from government - is set up to make sure the Highways Agency is delivering the wants, needs and expectations of motorists.”

The statement from the Department for Transport continued: “The new company will have a lot more freedom in day-to-day operational decisions, but will remain fully accountable to the Secretary of State for Transport, Parliament and, more importantly, to motorists.

“As set out earlier this year, the reforms to the Highways Agency are underpinned by legislation so future governments can not walk away from this commitment.

“The changes will also give the Highways Agency and its suppliers the confidence to recruit skilled workers and agree longer-term contracts that will save the taxpayer money.

“Next year, the department will set out the delivery expectations of the new government-owned company up to 2021.”

The department predicts that the change will yield savings of £2.6 billion over 10 years.

Want to make sure that the new body remembers that cyclists use some of the strategic network too? The details are set out in consultancy documents available from the page ‘Open consultation - Transforming the Highways Agency into a government-owned company’ and you can provide feedback on the plans from there too.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

16 comments

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simeond [20 posts] 2 years ago
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So glad we have the active travel bill in wales now.

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Leodis [405 posts] 2 years ago
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Just like the Tories, can't fix a problem so pay over the odds to fund a private company.

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IanW1968 [276 posts] 2 years ago
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Don't know why bother with English politicians, just give the power directly to business.

It'll save a fortune bribes, sorry consultancy fees.

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iL Soigneur [7 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm sorry but you really are just being alarmist here for the sake of a story. Something I've noticed quite a few times of late.

If you read the command paper: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil... you'll see that it's not only the motorist that will benefit from the HA becoming a publicly owned body but the cyclist as well.

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JonD [411 posts] 2 years ago
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Far more interesting is spinning it off into a government-owned company. I can imagine privatisation will shortly follow, and there's numerous examples of how well that works (or not) - eg G4S, water companies, power companies, BT (and that's as an exBT employee and current shareholder..)

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Wolfshade [191 posts] 2 years ago
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"“I also want motorists to have a greater say in how their roads are run"

Last time I checked they were everyone's road. Be they motorist, pedestrian, cyclist, horse rider, pogo jumper whatever.

The paper is all well and good but when you have figure heads reiterating the false narrative that the roads somehow belong to the motorist it is little wonder why we feel marginalised.

I have regular dealings with the HA and any move that makes them more efficient is a welcome one. It seems that theirs is not just simply a case of the right hand not know what the left is doing, moreover the right hand knows not that the left exists.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1239 posts] 2 years ago
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iL Soigneur wrote:

I'm sorry but you really are just being alarmist here for the sake of a story. Something I've noticed quite a few times of late.

If you read the command paper: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil... you'll see that it's not only the motorist that will benefit from the HA becoming a publicly owned body but the cyclist as well.

The paper may say what it says, but do you not think it nevertheless worth noting that the minister's _statement_ repeatedly assumes that motorists own the road and are the only people who have any interest in what happens on it? Personally I think that says something depressing about his underlying attitudes.

And this rather obvious preparation for privatisation of common public space doesn't fill me with joy either. Locke said that God gave the land "to all mankind in common" - I don't have much confidence that they are going to leave "as much and as good for all".

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jollygoodvelo [1477 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm not sure how creating a 'company' will result in savings, to be honest. Savings only result from spending less money (obv), and when a company chooses to spend less money it's usually by cutting out non-essential expenditure.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1239 posts] 2 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:

I'm not sure how creating a 'company' will result in savings, to be honest. Savings only result from spending less money (obv), and when a company chooses to spend less money it's usually by cutting out non-essential expenditure.

Presumably one thing it will do is give more scope for a minister to pass the buck when something goes wrong. Its odd that all this privatisation and contracting-out and spinning-off agencies, which reduces ministerial responsibility, never seems to lead to cuts in pay for ministers.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 2 years ago
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Most cyclists can drive motors too. Come on, let's flood the consultation!

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rockfield [68 posts] 2 years ago
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As a regular rail commuter I find it quite amazing anyone could look at the example of Network Rail and think "Hmm, yes thats a good model that we should copy" !!

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HowardR [42 posts] 2 years ago
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......and that is why I have proposed an independent watchdog - free from government - is set up.....

Forgive me! - But didn't the incumbent regime start it's reign with its "Bonfire of the quangos"?

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mrmo [2088 posts] 2 years ago
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I seem to remember the turnpikes were scrapped because they didn't work in the end, the private railways of the victorian era were scrapped because they didn't work in the end.

so what is being proposed?

I guess it means the government can claim it has nothing to do with the introduction of tolls for motorways when it happens.

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Carlton Reid [132 posts] 2 years ago
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A press release contained the offending phrase about motorists and "their" roads.

Behind the scenes, the minister for cycling and the press officer responsible have been alerted to the mistake; alerted from a number of different sources. DfT's cycle team said the criticism of the offending phrase was "valid."

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Rouboy [93 posts] 2 years ago
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“greater say in how their roads are run”
yeah yeah yeah? but please vote for us !

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 2 years ago
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I was unber the impression roads are public rights ofway, so any member of the public has the right to use them. Even I they are not driving.