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Local roads funding boost from DfT

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The Department for Transport (DfT) is opening a £348 million funding competition to help improve local roads over the next four years.

Councils will be able to bid for the cash to tackle issues on major local roads, from easing congestion through to sorting out potholes.

The £348m is divided into two pots; the Challenge Fund, will be available for this year and the next, with just under £200m on offer.

Councils will be able to bid for projects that will improve the quality of roads and surrounding infrastructure - including structures such as bridges and viaducts if necessary - to benefit the local economy and make driving safer.

In particular, DfT says that the funding could be put toward sorting major pothole repairs.

MPs on the Transport Select Committee, however, have said that a ‘front-loaded’, five-year funding settlement is the only way local authorities will be able to address a deteriorating local roads network and plan ahead.

Launching the committee’s report last month, Transport Committee chair Lilian Greenwood said: “Cash-strapped councils are raiding their highways and transport budgets to fund core services. This is not an isolated example – it’s been a common thread in our other recent inquiries on buses and active travel.

“Now is the time for the Department to propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury as part of the forthcoming Spending Review.

“Almost every journey begins and ends on local roads: the DfT must work with the public and local authorities to make them safe.”

The second set of funding, the Pinch Point Fund, will be available in 2021/22 and 2022/23 and totals £150m.

It will go towards council projects designed to help ease congestion on some of their busiest roads.

Previous examples of projects funded through Pinch Point include: improving the links between the A12 and A143 to open up housing and commercial development land; new roads helping buses bypass single lane roads; and new roads to link main roads with new housing developments.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Local roads are the backbone of the transport network for drivers up and down the country, but we know that some aren’t up to the standard they need to be.

“Whether it’s congestion or quality, we need to empower local authorities to invest in these roads and make journeys safer and stress-free.

“That’s exactly what this funding will do – over four years we’re providing more than a third of a billion pounds to make sure local authorities have the cash they need to make this a reality.”

Today’s announcement is the latest in a string of funding injections from the DfT.

It is investing more than £6.6 billion between 2015 and 2021, including the £198 million funding for the Challenge Fund announced today, to improve the condition of the local highway networks.

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