By Ian Lewis
The Highways Agency is to be transformed into a government-owned firm in a bid to save money and ensure the management of England's "neglected" main roads is improved.
The government has allocated £24 billion to look after the country's motorways and main A-roads up to 2021.
And it is hoped the reforms will save £2.6 billion of taxpayers' money, improve conditions for motorists and make the agency more accountable.
Road network 'has been neglected'
Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, said: "Our road network is an incredibly important national asset, but it has been neglected.
"This government has committed to the biggest ever investment in our roads but it is vital we have the right foundations in place to make sure this huge amount of money is spent in the most efficient way.
"The reformed Highways Agency will be more transparent and more accountable, driving down costs as it increases efficiency.
"This means taxpayers get a better deal and road users get a network that is fit for the future economic demands of this country, helping to create more jobs and support business growth."
Two new organisations
The reforms, now given approval by the government, will see two new organisations being set up to ensure the Highways Agency (HA) becomes more accountable to MPs.
One body will be established to protect the interests of road users while the other will keep tabs on the HA's costs and the way it performs.
Meanwhile, a long-term strategy covering investment in roads is set to be published by the Department for Transport later in the year.
The document will detail the new company's long-term vision as well as an investment plan and how it will be expected to perform.
Move welcomed by manufacturers' organisation EEF
EEF business environment policy advisor Chris Richards said: "Today's green light moves us one step closer to ending the stop-start cycle of investment in our road network.
"Too many previous road improvement schemes announced by ministers have been delayed or cancelled by successors as long-term funding and strategy wasn't backed by legislation.
"The proposed reforms change this by providing a guaranteed budget across five years and giving the agency greater independence to plan ahead."