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Small road jobs set to go ahead despite cutbacks

DESPITE having to make the most swingeing cuts since the Department of Transport was set up, the Highways Agency (HA) is still considering awarding a further 60 small contracts before the end of March.

The awards, together worth around 25 million, will allow the agency to start just 55 per cent of the 280 schemes programmed for the current year.

The main reason for the decision to abandon 45 per cent of the programme is the continuing HA cash crisis with the agency understood to have had just 50 million to spend in total in the last three months of the current financial year.

Paul Everitt, deputy director of the British Road Federation, said: This latest round of abandonments is clear evidence that the HA has run out of money. They highlight the fact that cuts in the road programme do not only apply to the large schemes, but that all kinds of maintenance and network enhancement projects are now being dragged in as well.

But the HA has shown a clear determination to at least achieve its 55 per cent target. Even at this late stage in the financial year, the agency is considering more than a dozen additional schemes, which it will be able to start immediately if other projects fall behind schedule. There is a significant regional variation in the number of schemes to be started (see table above).

And there is no guarantee that if a scheme is abandoned in the current financial year that it will start next year.

There have been increasingly strong rumours circulating around Whitehall that the Department of Transport is set to abandon most of the network enhancement programme.