The government has reportedly delayed a £25 billion plan to invest in the UK’s roads amid fears over climate change and emissions targets.

It had been expected that the next phase of the Road Investment Strategy, RIS2, would be published alongside the Budget tomorrow (March 11th 2020) so it could come into effect on April 1st and run until March 31st 2025.

However, according to the Times, the publication of the plan is now likely to be delayed until later this spring or early summer.

Ruling on airports could affect roads

The reasoning behind the hold-up is said to be the recent decision by the Court of Appeal to deny an expansion of Heathrow Airport on the grounds that it failed to take into account Britain’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Indeed, the ruling may have made the government realise that RIS2 also does not contain measures to ensure the UK achieves net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Office for National Statistics figures show that road traffic in Britain increased by 29 per cent between 1990 and 2018, while greenhouse gas emissions from road transport rose six per cent from 1990 to 2017.

At the same time, only 0.5 per cent of all licensed vehicles in the UK in 2018 were ultra-low emission vehicles, despite the government’s Road to Zero strategy aiming for every car and van to be zero-emission within 30 years.

With a 2017 Campaign to Protect Rural England report showing that major new roads increase traffic by up to 47 per cent over 20 years, many will undoubtedly now be wondering how a major plan for a network of new roads is going to be delivered while taking the additional vehicle emissions it would create and the environment into consideration.

Heather Stark, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, comments: “This apparent legal issue is a major blow for the government. It looks as though, until a huge rollout of greener vehicles is achieved, any plan to increase the volume of traffic is likely to be frowned upon and even flat-out denied.”

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