Road maintenance fear
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by Derren Hayes • Plans to privatise the management of England's 6,000 miles of motorways and trunk roads are not likely to clear up the backlog of repairs needed, say industry organisations.
The Highways Agency is to put the maintenance and improvement of the country's motorway and trunk road network into the hands of 24 private-sector agencies, replacing the 50year-old structure that gave the responsibility to county and borough councils.
They will be responsible for spending the £600 million Highways Agency maintenance budget for next year.
The agencies will manage, design and supervise maintenance work and improvement schemes, and co-ordinate measures such as road gritting, emergency responses, spillages and speed cameras.
The new agents will be chosen under competitive tender by the Highways Agency, and paid between £2m and 1.:,4m a year, with initial contracts lasting three years. The introduction of the scheme will be phased with six starting in 1997, 10 in 1998 and eight in 1999.
A British Road Federation spokesman says: "This could be seen as the Government starting up a load of quangos for road maintenance. We are worried that the backlog of work needed to be done will be no quicker than under the old system."
AA head of roads and transport Paul Watters says: "Our main concerns are that any savings are spent on improving the network for the road user and not siphoned off by the Treasury. One thing we'd loathe is another round of budget cuts for roads and transport."