Highways England’s £29bn road plan ‘faces emissions court challenge’

The government’s GBP28.8bn, five-year plan for UK road upgrades could be challenged in the courts on environmental grounds after Heathrow Airport’s expansion was successfully challenged, according to reports. According to the BBC, Highways England’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) is due to be published next month without taking into account the UK’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. On Thursday, the Court of Appeal ruled that the approval of Heathrow’s expansion was unlawful on the grounds that its plans did not take into account the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Pressure group Transport Action Network told the broadcaster it is considering legal action against the government on the basis that a value-for-money assessment for the scheme was carried out in April 2019, when the UK was targeting only an 80 per cent carbon-emissions reduction by 2050. Construction News reported in November 2019 that there is uncertainty over whether RIS2, which is set to run from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2025 would be launched on time due to December’s general election. A commitment to invest GBP28.8bn in strategic and local roads was a key infrastructure pledge in the Conservative general election campaign last year.

Since then, details have emerged that these will consist of “a five-year package of upgrades to motorways and A-roads”.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the body had “one of the world’s most ambitious plans for reducing carbon emissions”, and that its roads strategy was developed alongside this.

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