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Roads spend details promised

The Highways Agency will start procurement for its next wave of major projects before the end of the year - but has admitted it will not be able to provide contractors with a full future programme of works until 2009.

The agency’s new chief executive, Graham Dalton, said this week that one of his main priorities since taking on the role last month has been to establish a clearly defined major projects programme.

In recent years the agency’s work pipeline became less clear as it examined whether schemes planned as straightforward widening could be delivered by converting the hard shoulder into carriageway.

There have also been concerns over cost estimating on schemes that delayed their progress.

Mr Dalton said: “We are now doing some serious and detailed work with consultants to get scope and cost estimates for schemes. This will allow us to build up a programme to the end of the spending review period in 2011 and then for the next three years so we get a solid programme that takes us up to 2014.”

Mr Dalton added that the shift away from widening towards the use of the hard shoulder and active traffic management might help the agency to get some of the early schemes into the programme sooner than expected.

He said: “Some schemes may be easier to deliver under active traffic management than full widening so we can draw them forward.”

Birmingham gets hard shoulder

Carillion has won a £96 million contract from the Highways Agency to make parts of the motorway network around Birmingham ready for hard shoulder running.

Skanska, Costain and Nuttall were also bidding for the work, known as the Birmingham Box, which involves carrying out work in two main phases on the M6, M40 and M42.

Work on the first phase will start this autumn with completion set for the end of 2009. Phase two starts early next year. The entire scheme will finish in spring 2011.

A series of variable speed limits will be introduced with hard shoulder running taking place between specific junctions.