The UK’s motorways and major A-roads are set to be “decarbonised” by 2050, according to the organisation that runs them. Highways England has revealed a new three-stage “carbon plan” designed to help the road network become “net” zero-emission by the middle of the century.

According to Highways England, the new plan is a “comprehensive road map” that will “rapidly” decarbonise the UK’s strategic road network. It’s hoped the new measures will build on existing work to cut carbon emissions, which began in 2015.

The new plan comprises three stages, with targets of achieving net zero for Highways England’s own operations by 2030, then ensuring road maintenance and construction is zero-emission by 2040. The organisation then hopes to support net zero carbon travel on UK roads by 2050.

UK motorway services roadworks cones

As part of that, the government-run company will require contractors and suppliers to cut their net emissions, with commitments to reduce carbon emissions from roadworks and maintenance. It will also increase the number of electric vehicles on its fleet, install more energy-efficient lighting and plant three million new trees to cut its own carbon footprint.

Those measures will be joined by other schemes designed to increase electric vehicle (EV) uptake, including the provision of charging points and training staff to deal with EV-specific needs. Highways England will also act as an assessor and adviser to the government during trials of zero-emission HGVs.

Heavy traffic on the M1 motorway near Salford Bedfordshire England UK

“Highways England recognises the threat of climate change and the risks it poses for us all,” said Nick Harris, the acting chief executive of Highways England. “That’s why we’re pledging to take effective action to take carbon out of roads.

“Today’s roads are a convenient, efficient and low-cost way to travel which is why nine out of 10 passenger miles and 79 percent of all freight moves on roads. Our plans set out how emissions from our own operations, our construction and our customers will reduce over the coming years. It will put roads at the heart of the low carbon economy, while preserving the convenience and economic benefit of an efficient road network.”

Meanwhile transport minister Rachel Maclean said the plans would go hand-in-hand with government schemes to reduce transport emissions.

“We know that transport is the biggest emitter of carbon emissions, which is why I’m pleased to see that Highways England are setting out a roadmap which will clean up our air as we build back greener,” she said. “This comes just days after the government unveiled its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, setting out our plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”