Nighttime highway scene with light trails from vehicles traveling along the road, bordered by trees and open fields, under a twilight sky.

The future of England’s roads

In this episode Prof. Greg Clark meets Paul Doney, Director of Innovation & Continuous Improvement at Highways England – the highway, traffic and street authority that manages 4,300 miles of England's roads and motorways.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic the reduction in traffic volume on England’s strategic road network was huge. But as the economy now starts to recover it’s important to remain focussed on those medium to long term challenges that haven’t gone away. What do the UK’s net zero ambitions mean for England’s strategic road network? What contribution is innovation making on that journey and where are the opportunities for businesses? How can digitisation and new and emerging technologies help to connect not just people but places?

Paul Doney has had a distinguished career as a civil engineer and a background in contracting, engineering and local government, Paul joined the Highways Agency in 2003 and more recently has been leading the innovation agenda at Highways England with a strong focus on customer value.

Music on this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions and Phill Ward Music (

Show notes

Conversation topics/themes:

  • The impact the pandemic has had on the road network in England, and changing mobility patterns over the last year
  • The bigger trends that pre-date COVID which are shaping the future of England’s strategic road network, and how Highways England preparing for that future. 
  • The role that digitisation plays when thinking about the road networks of the future, and the new and emerging technologies; how such technologies can connect not just people, but places. 
  • How Highways England is responding to the innovation challenges that these trends and technologies are bringing with them, particularly the question of how a public body can work more creatively with researchers and SMEs. 
  • What the net zero agenda means for Highways England and the strategic road network

To read and download our report on ‘Transition to Zero Emission Transport: A Pathway for Long Haul Heavy Goods Vehicles’, which investigates the options for decarbonising road freight, click here.

To find out more about the first tranche of funding for zero-emission ‘freight trials’ in the UK, you can learn more in a briefing webinar that was recently run by KTN on the competition by clicking here.

To read and download the Highways England report, ‘Connecting the Country: Planning for the Long Term’, click here.

Our wider innovation programme with the UK Department of Transport also includes a number of case studies from drones and the future of aviation, to new innovations in micro-mobility and active travel.

Our next Virtual Connections Café is taking place on Wednesday the 14th April. These cafes offer practical support to businesses and they’re a great way of plugging into new networks. Our next one will be exploring some of the best practice that’s out there to help SMEs and local authorities procuring new solutions at city scale.

To register for our upcoming webinar on ‘Innovative financing’s potential to drive sustainability in the built environment sector’ which is being held on 31st March, click here. To find out more about what we do at the Connected Places Catapult and to hear about the latest news, events and announcements, please sign up to our newsletter!