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CBT: Roads programme as much as £3.9bn over budget

The Highways Agency’s road building programme is “significantly over budget”, with three quarters of the roads completed in the past year more expensive than expected.

According to Government figures obtained under Freedom of Information by the Campaign for Better Transport, the agency’s programme – including all roads finished in the past 12 months, those under construction, and those in the planning stages – could be as much as £3.9 billion over budget .

The CBT said that 12 of the 16 roads which opened to the public in the last year overran on costs and, on average, came in more than 50 per cent over budget.

The CBT said: “These cost increases, combined with expected cutbacks in public spending, mean that it is highly likely that many of these schemes will not be built.”

Among projects open for traffic in 2008/09, the A14 Haughley New Street to Stowmarket scheme in Suffolk was 250 per cent over budget, while the A38 Dobwalls bypass in Cornwall was 205.9 per cent over budget.

CBT roads and climate campaigner Richard George said today: “We need to improve transport but pouring money into this black hole isn’t the way to do that.

“Rising costs and shrinking budgets means that some of these roads will never get built, so the Government should accept that we cannot build our way out of congestion, cancel some of these over-priced schemes and invest the money instead in decent and affordable public transport to give us an alternative to traffic jams and gridlock.”

But a Department for Transport spokesman said it was “wrong” to say the road building programme was significantly over budget.

It said: “There have been no significant changes in costs on schemes opened to traffic - or in construction - since the latest costs were published in July 2008.”