Net zero highways

An ambitious programme putting roads at the heart of Britain’s net zero future

Roads will be a vital part of zero carbon travel

  • Most journeys are made by road
  • Road travel will decarbonise fast, but there is more to do
  • A net zero Britain will still travel by road in 2050
  • Investment in Britain’s roads supports a thriving net zero economy

This plan is based on strong science and evidence. It aligns with:

  • The 1.5°C reduction goal of the Paris Agreement
  • The UK’s commitment to be a net zero economy by 2050
  • Government’s Decarbonising Transport: A Better, Greener Britain (2021) and Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy
  • The Committee on Climate Change’s sixth carbon budget

Building on existing progress

  • 95% of our network is within 20 miles of an electric chargepoint today
  • We have been measuring the carbon footprint of our schemes for 30 years
  • We are Britain’s largest builder of cycleways having completed 150 schemes in the past five years
  • We are part of a wider transport system that supports inter-modal travel

Our commitments - backed by immediate and sustained action:

Corporate emissions icon

Net zero for our own operations by 2030

Maintenance and construction emissions

Net zero for maintenance & construction by 2040

Road user emissions icon

Net zero carbon travel on our roads by 2050

The Strategic Road Network (SRN) has a key role in net zero Britain

Today roads are seen by many to work against the ambitions of a zero carbon economy. Yet to deliver a net zero economy, our roads have to be net zero too. This is why:

Britain relies on roads today

While many see cars as a problem, roads and cars are an integral part of our transport system. 80% of families own a car today, almost nine out of ten passenger miles are travelled by road and 79% of freight goods move by road (Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2020). Road travel provides a convenient, low cost and practical way to travel to see family, to travel to work and to deliver goods around the UK.

Road travel will decarbonise fast

While road travel represents a higher carbon way to travel in the UK today, this is changing fast. Already, government has indicated that sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be phased out by 2030. Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan puts Britain on a trajectory to do the same for heavy goods vehicles from 2040. The future of road travel is a zero carbon one, powered by renewable electricity, hydrogen and biofuels.

A net zero Britain will still travel by road in 2050

While we support investment in all zero carbon transport options, investment in other forms of transport, such as rail, will make only a limited impact on how Britain moves. HS2 will take between 1 and 3% of traffic off the SRN, for example. This is why The Committee on Climate Change forecasts that traffic levels will be higher than today in 2050, even taking account of the ambitious actions in its Sixth Carbon Budget which we support.

Investment in Britain’s roads supports a thriving net zero economy

Today every £1 investment in the strategic road network returns over £2 to the economy. Our roads directly support sectors which employ 7.4 million people in the UK and contribute £314 billion in Gross Value Added to the economy. The industries that rely on the road network are expected to grow by 35% by 2030, which will generate an additional £110 billion of UK growth.

This plan aims to ensure our roads support the social and economic goals of our nation, while making sure we do so in an environmentally sound way.

Cutting our direct carbon emissions

Corporate emissions icon - net zero by 2030

Covering our network lighting, roadside equipment, travel and offices

Our first ambition is to eliminate emissions from all of our own operations. Together, these led to 82,000 tonnes of CO2e during 2020, projected to fall to to 50,000 tonnes CO2e in 2030 without direct action. In 2020 we achieved our commitment to only buy 100% certified renewable electricity. Our focus is now generating more of our energy on our own sites, decarbonising our travel and increasing the removal of carbon on our own sites.

electricity icon

100% electricity bought by a certified renewable tariff from 2020

renewable electricity icon

Aim to generate 10% of our electricity from renewable sources on, or near to, our own sites by 2030

Plant icon

Plant at least 3 million trees on or near our land by by 2030

Carbon reduction icon

75% reduction in corporate emissions by 2025, compared to 2017/2018 baseline

network lights icon

Switch 70% of our network lights to LED by 2027

electric vehicle icon

75% of our cars and vans electric or hybrid by 2025

Our trajectory to net zero

% reduction in emissions

Baseline
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75%
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Net zero
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2017/2018 2020 2025 2030

Key actions and anticipated impact

51%
Certified renewable electricity*
17%
Our green spaces
14%
Corporate purchases**
12%
Switch to LEDs
7%
On-site renewables
5%
Vehicle fleet EVs
1%
Gas heating phase out
* Including grid de-carbonisation and energy efficiency measures.
**Including business travel, commuting, purchases and waste.
N.B. Total is >100% due to the carbon removal in our green spaces.

Cutting emissions from maintenance and construction

maintenance and construction emissions icon net zero by 2040

Covering the manufacture, transport and use of materials such as asphalt, cement, concrete and steel on our network

We are one of the UK’s largest buyers of construction materials, used to keep our road network in good condition and ready for the future. The emissions from the maintenance and construction of our network led to emissions of around 734 thousand tonnes of CO2e during 2020, which are projected to fall to around 350,000 tonnes in 2040 with no additional action from us. We have a significant opportunity to catalyse Britain’s construction industry to deliver the Committee on Climate Change’s call for the construction industry to be largely decarbonised by 2040. We will focus on the asphalt, cement and steel sectors. We will use a carbon management system to embed approaches that minimise emissions, including lean construction practices and the principles of the circular economy. We will also use digital technologies to increase the capacity of our existing network minimising new construction.

construction icon

All construction plant and compounds zero emissions by 2030

carbon reduction icon

A 0-10% reduction by 2025 compared to 2020

Document icon

Net zero part of MCHW and DMRB by end 2022 and 2025

roadmap icon

A near zero construction roadmap in 2022

road icon

UK’s first near zero road scheme starts in 2025 – opening by 2035

carbon reduction icon

A 40-50% reduction by 2030 compared to 2020

Our trajectory to net zero*

% reduction in emissions

Baseline
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0-10%
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40-50%
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70-80%
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Net zero
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2020 2025 2030 2035 2040

* The trajectory is based on the rate of maintenance and construction activity committed to between 2020 and 2025 continuing at the same rate until 2050

Key actions and anticipated impact

41%
Zero carbon construction products
20%
Zero carbon material transport
17%
Construction plant and compounds
12%
Digital roads
5%
Lean, innovative construction management
5%
Residual offset

Net zero carbon travel on our roads

road user emissions icon - net zero by 2050

Covering emissions from the vehicles using the strategic road network

We have set an ambition for all of our customers to be travelling using net zero transport by 2050 in line with the UK Climate Change Act. Many of the actions that will deliver this ambition are out of our direct control, but that does not mean we cannot play our part. Our priorities are to help roll out solutions to decarbonise HGVs, and support the uptake of electric cars and vans. We will also continue our work integrating the SRN with other transport modes, whilst working to improve the efficiency of the network.

movement icon

Report in 2023 how we can help reduce empty lorry movements

HGV icon

Present a report to the Secretary of State for Transport on global HGV technology trials and our proposals for UK trials in 2022

charging icon

Publish a blueprint for EV charging services and energy storage by 2023

HGV charging icon

Have a preferred investment plan for HGV charging by 2028, for RP4 implementation

public transport icon

Publish a plan to improve public transport on the SRN in 2023 and implement through RP3

carbon reduction icon

Emissions reduced to between 20-7 MtCO2e by 2035

Our trajectory to net zero*

Estimated million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) emissions

33
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31-26
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25-15
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20-7
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8-3
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5-1
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Net zero
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2020 2025 2030 2035 2040 2045 2050
2020 arrow icon33
2025 arrow icon 31-26
2030 arrow icon25-15
2035 arrow icon20-7
2040 arrow icon8-3
2045 arrow icon5-1
2050 arrow iconNet Zero

* In line with the DfT’s Decarbonising Transport: A Better, Greener Britain (2021).

3 icons for each theme: corporate, maintenance and road user

Our indicative roadmap

While our 2030-40-50 targets drive this plan, we also have developed an interim trajectory, shown here. These will drive immediate action and provide an indicator of progress.

Corporate emissions
We buy 100% of our electricity via a certified renewables tariff

Road user emissions
95% of the SRN is within 20 minutes of a rapid charger

Road user emissions
33 MtCO2e annual emissions from road users

2020

Road user emissions
We are continuing to equip our traffic officers with the tools to recover Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Road user emissions
Implement our remoding trials

2021

Corporate emissions
Develop our renewables roll out plan and submit planning for our first pilot site

Corporate emissions
Zero carbon memoranda agreed with our landlords

Maintenance and construction emissions
Implement and certify a construction carbon management system

Maintenance and construction emissions
Our specifications Manual of Contracts Documents of Highways Works (MCHW) have integrated net zero thinking

Maintenance and construction emissions
Launch a zero carbon materials innovation programme

Maintenance and construction emissions
Develop a 2040 zero carbon road map for concrete, asphalt and steel

2022

Road user emissions
Support to ‘project rapid’ delivering £950 million of charging infrastructure at Motorway Service Areas (MSAs)

2023

Corporate emissions
75% reduction in emissions compared to 2017/18

Corporate emissions
75% of our light fleet switched to electric or hybrid

Maintenance and construction emissions
0-10% reduction in emissions compared to 2020

Maintenance and construction emissions
Our specifications Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) integrate net zero thinking

Maintenance and construction emissions
Our Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers have certified carbon management systems

Maintenance and construction emissions
Commission a long term delivery partner to design a major net zero road scheme

Road user emissions
emissions reduced to between 31-26 MtCO2e

Road user emissions
By end of road period explore options for further freight demonstrators

Road user emissions
Explore the potential to work with partners to practically demonstrate the EV charging services blueprint

Road user emissions
Investigate energy storage to support EV charging at MSAs

2025

Corporate emissions
70% of our network lights switched to LED

Corporate emissions
light fleet is 100% electric excluding traffic officer vehicles

2027

Corporate emissions
100% Our corporate emissions are net zero without purchased offsetting

Corporate emissions
Light fleet including traffic officer vehicles is 100% electric vehicles

Corporate emissions
Generate at least 10% of our electricity from renewables on our estate

Corporate emissions
Plant at least 3 million trees since 2021

Maintenance and construction emissions
40-50% reduction in emissions compared to 2020

Maintenance and construction emissions
Only zero carbon plant on our sites and site cabins

Road user emissions
Emissions reduced to between 25-15 MtCO2e

2030

Maintenance and construction emissions
70-80% reduction in emissions compared to 2020

Maintenance and construction emissions
First major scheme that aims to be net zero constructed

Road user emissions
Emissions reduced to between 20-7 MtCO2e

2035

Corporate emissions
100% electric or hydrogen heavy vehicles

Maintenance and construction emissions
100% Our schemes are net zero, and where there are residual emissions, these will be offset using robust certified ‘removal’ offsets

Maintenance and construction emissions
Zero carbon HGVs deliver to our sites

Road user emissions
Emissions reduced to between 8-3 MtCO2e

2040

Road user emissions
Emissions reduced to between 5-1 MtCO2e

2045

Road user emissions
100% The network will be net zero

2050
2020

Corporate emissions

We buy 100% of our electricity via a certified renewables tariff

Road user emissions

95% of the SRN is within 20 minutes of a rapid charger
33 MtCO2e annual emissions from road users

Road user emissions

Implement our remoding trials
We are continuing to equip our traffic officers with the tools to recover EVs

Corporate emissions

Develop our renewables roll out plan and submit planning for our first pilot site
Zero carbon memoranda agreed with our landlords

Maintenance and construction emissions

Implement and certify a construction carbon management system
Our specifications Manual of Contracts Documents of Highways Works (MCHW) have integrated net zero thinking
Launch a zero carbon materials innovation programme
Develop a 2040 zero carbon road map for concrete, asphalt and steel

Road user emissions

Support to ‘project rapid’ delivering £950 million of charging infrastructure at MSAs

Corporate emissions

75% reduction in emissions compared to 2017/18
75% of our light fleet switched to electric or hybrid

Maintenance and construction emissions

0-10% reduction in emissions compared to 2020
Our specifications Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) integrate net zero thinking
Our Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers have certified carbon management systems
Commission a long term delivery partner to design a major net zero road scheme

Road user emissions

Emissions reduced to between 31-26 MtCO2e
By end of road period explore options for further freight demonstrators
Explore the potential to work with partners to practically demonstrate the EV charging services blueprint
Investigate energy storage to support EV charging at MSAs

Corporate emissions

70% of our lights network switched to LED
Light fleet is 100% electric excluding traffic officer vehicles

Corporate emissions

100% Our corporate emissions are net zero without purchased offsetting
Light fleet including traffic officer vehicles is 100% electric vehicles
Generate at least 10% of our electricity from renewables on our estate
Plant at least 3 million trees since 2021

Maintenance and construction emissions

40-50% reduction in emissions compared to 2020
Only zero carbon plant on our sites and site cabins

Road user emissions

Emissions reduced to between 25-15 MtCO2e

Maintenance and construction emissions

70-80% reduction in emissions compared to 2020
First major scheme that aims to be net zero constructed

Road user emissions

Emissions reduced to between 20-7 MtCO2e

Corporate emissions

100% electric or hydrogen heavy vehicles

Maintenance and construction emissions

100% Our schemes are net zero, and where there are residual emissions, these will be offset using robust certified ‘removal’ offsets
Zero carbon HGVs deliver to our sites

Road user emissions

Emissions reduced to between 8-3 MtCO2e

Road user emissions

Emissions reduced to between 5-1 MtCO2e

Road user emissions

The network will be net zero
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