Highways UK was launched in 2015 at the start of the Government’s first five-year road investment strategy (RIS) which committed £15bn between 2015-2020. This marked the end of decades of politically-driven stop-start funding.
The sector is now poised to embark on the second five-year road investment strategy (RIS 2), with Government committing an unprecedented investment of £25bn into the strategic road network (SRN), which covers England’s motorways and major trunk roads, between 2020-2025.
But Government has made it clear that in exchange for the secured and raised levels of investment, the sector must deliver better value for money. The basic argument is that after decades of uncertainty, the sector can now have the confidence to invest in the technology, equipment and skills needed to improve its productivity.
The sector is also undergoing dramatic and rapid change which is having a profound impact on how people and goods move around. Many major disruptors, particularly the electrification of vehicles, driverless cars and mobility as a service, are already starting to play out, with major implications for road infrastructure.
Road transport is also a major contributor to the country’s carbon emissions and therefore an important part of the solution in how the country hits it legally binding target to be net zero by 2050.
All this is driving much greater use of innovation with tech start-ups and the telecoms and energy sectors increasingly working alongside the established road building, maintenance and traffic management sectors; bringing new players into the market and creating entirely new supply chains.
It is no surprise that over the last five years, highways have consistently been the most buoyant and innovative sector within infrastructure and construction; and we are really only just at the start of the journey.
There are of course many different scenarios on how these factors will play out. Highways UK’s ambition is to bring together at scale the influencers and decision makers across the sector to identify how to achieve positive outcomes for the economy, society and the environment, while putting them in a neutral environment to network, learn and do business.