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Road jobs facing a rocky ride

MINISTERS have set the Highways Agency tough targets for delivery of major road projects in the next 12 months.

For the first time the agency's 2002-03 business plan, which was launched yesterday (Wednesday), has set milestones for each of the 51 major schemes in the Targeted Programme of Improvement.

Ministers from the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions have demanded that the agency meet at least 48 of the 51 milestones in the next financial year.

In previous years the agency has set only selected targets from the programme.

Fifteen milestones were set for the current financial year. The agency is likely to meet government targets of 13 by the end of March.

Next year's milestones range from opening roads, including the A27 Polegate and A43 Silverstone bypasses, to the appointment of consultants for improvements to Junction 6 of the M62, on which construction work is not due to start on site until at least 2005.

Highways Agency network strategy director Hillary Chipping welcomed the development.

She said: 'These schemes have always been in the business plan. Giving each one a milestone to be achieved this year seems a sensible move.'

The Highways Agency has advertised for bidders to take the £27 million A5 Weeford-Fazeley bypass contract in Staffordshire through public inquiry and design phase to construction in 2003. It is the fourth in the agency's new wave of 'Pathfinder' road contracts.