Preparation work for motorway widening has already cost millions but project yet to start

The government has already spent over £68m on consultants for widening of the M25 since 1997.

Junior transport minister Paul Clark revealed that £10m was spent in 2008/9, over £13m in 2007/8, £15m in 2006/7 and over £16m in 2005/6.

In a written reply to shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers, Clark said the costs related to consultancy work for M25 widening and preparation of the M25 design, finance, build and operate (DBFO) contract.

The £5bn PFI DBFO contract for over 60 miles of the motorway was awarded in May to the Connect Plus consortium, consisting of Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Atkins and Egis Projects.

However, the government admitted last week that it has yet to reach financial close, and has been delayed from April to at least September. This is thought to be because of financing difficulties.

Widening parts of the M25 in Hertfordshire and Essex is due to start in 2009/10

The agency said last week that widening parts of the M25 in Hertfordshire and Essex would be among a £1bn package of road schemes due to start in 2009/10.

So-called hard shoulder running and using the hard shoulder at peak times are being increasingly used instead of widening.