Scope of the inquiry
In December 2014, the Department for Transport introduced a new regime of 5-yearly road investment strategies to improve the management of England’s strategic road network. As part of the first Road Investment Strategy, the Department announced plans to upgrade the A303/A358 road corridor to the South West by 2029 to improve road connectivity. This includes the £1.7 billion (£1.9 billion including VAT) project to upgrade the road between Amesbury and Berwick Down and a tunnel (the Stonehenge tunnel) under the World Heritage Site. The NAO’s recent report found that the financial return on investment for the Stonehenge tunnel is low for road projects: offering a return of £1.15 for every £1 spent. In February 2019, we raised concerns about how HM Treasury and the Department planned to fund the Stonehenge tunnel project, following the decision not to sign future PFI/PF2 deals. We will be asking the Department and Highways England about the Stonehenge tunnel project, and other projects along the A303/A358 corridor, seeking answers on how they will be funded.
The Committee will also be using this evidence session to raise a number of other issues with the Department. The Committee will be questioning officials on transport infrastructure in the South West and in particular will be asking for an update on the Great Western railway modernisation programme and intends to cover the A417 roundabout in the Cotswolds.
The session will also provide an opportunity for Members to question the Department about its decision to award contracts to provide additional freight capacity on ferry services. The Committee has questioned the Department on this before in February but this will provide an opportunity to consider the matter in light of the out-of-court settlement with Eurotunnel and the NAO’s memorandum ( PDF 997 KB) on the matter which was published earlier this month.