4 more years to carry out significant investment to Island’s highways

Island Roads will use four more years of its contract to carry out significant investment to the Island’s highways network.

With the initial seven-year core road rebuilding programme finishing this year, it emerged this week that Island Roads would continue an intensive programme for four more years of the 18 remaining on its contract.

After a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s corporate scrutiny committee, a council spokesperson said around 90 per cent of the Island’s busiest hierarchy one and two roads — but not all the roads — have been treated.

They said: “While the most intensive period of improvement work is due to end next month, a further four years of significant investment is being brought forward by Island Roads and the council to ensure good progress continues to be made.

“This is funding that would have been spent later in the contract and will ensure the roads are maintained above the minimum required standard.

“Since the start of the contract in 2013, the Island’s road network has been transformed from one of the worst in the country, to one of the best. This would not have been possible without the 25-year grant of £477 million from the Department of Transport for roads on the Island.”

Council leader Cllr Dave Stewart said at the meeting the finances of the PFI were ‘laid out’ in the budget papers that were recently published.

However, only one minor mention is given to the PFI in the 65-page budget documents — that £19.4m grant funding for the PFI is excluded from the Infrastructure and Transport budget.

When asked about this Cllr Stewart directed enquiries to Cllr Ian Ward via email, who would be able to answer questions about the specific budget.

Members of the scrutiny panel pointed out that in original method statements 91 to 93 per cent of all roads would be upgraded, resurfaced or refurbished.

Colin Rowland, director of neighbourhoods, said he was not in his position when the promises ‘were possibly made’ but that is not how it works.

“We have gone from league division four of road conditions in the UK to league division one.

“In fact, if you measure us against the specifications we have the second best roads in the country due to the investment that was made.”

An Island Roads spokesman added: “There are 18 more years of the PFI left during which we will continue to maintain and improve all types of road across the Island.

“We continue to carry out works through the normal course of the contract, and our plan is to continue the next four years of significant road improvement work that will leave us very well placed to maintain the network to the required level for the remainder of the contract.

“This means keeping the average condition across the Island above the agreed standard.

“While the programme is not as intensive as during the last seven years, the public will see lots going on, but with less disruption to local road users and visitors, particularly in the periods when holiday makers are visiting our Island and making use of the improved roads and amenities.

“In short, though the period of the most intense road improvement activity is coming to an end, the quality of the road network will continue to rise in the coming years.”