Authorities will have two years for new highways maintenance code


A key figure in the upcoming reforms to the national code of practice for highways maintenance has revealed the new code is due by Christmas and local authorities will have two years to implement changes.

The new code has a risk-based approach to asset maintenance

Lila Tachtsi, service director of asset management at Atkins, has been working with the UK Roads Liaison Group on the transformation of the Well-maintained Highways code and is central to the reform process.

The new document, which will be titled Well-managed Highways Infrastructure and will bring in a risk-based approach to asset maintenance and will seek to remove the concept of national standards.

Ms Tachtsi was speaking at the recent Local Government Technical Advisers Group’s president’s conference, and revealed that following a consultation on proposed changes to the guidance last year, a draft version could be released this autumn, with publication due by the end of the year.

She also confirmed that authorities would have two years to implement the new code from the time it is published and there will now be an additional document, to give some extra guidance on the risk-based approach.

Elaborating on this key theme, Ms Tachtsi said: ‘Anything that was considered to be a standard will be reviewed or has been reviewed in the new codes of practice. We don’t want standards. The reality is that the word standard does not appear in the codes but some of the advice, or worse, some of the case studies have been adopted as standards by some practitioners.

‘What does risk-based approach mean? Well it is well defined in Well-maintained highways but for some reason our sector has chosen to pay more attention to the case studies rather than the risk-based approach.

‘We want to create the guidance that you need to make your decisions around risk. One the biggest problems we have had with the code of practice is around the frequency of inspections and response times. The whole point of risk-based approach is to encourage authorities to take a consistent, transparent and systematic approach to develop their own treatment. So its guidance around how to develop you own functional hierarchy, how to develop understanding of the risk around different parts of the hierarchy and understanding how to manage that risk to develop your own frequency of inspection.

‘Why should you have the same inspection regime in Westminster as parts of rural Cornwall? It doesn’t make sense you all know what is the right thing to do.’

Major changes from the previous document are likely to include:

  • The previous 175 recommendations in the previous code of practice cut down to just 33, although that may change by the final document
  • No standards. The new practice will give room for authorities to develop their own methodology and approach.
  • A lot of emphasis on a functional hierarchy, which is essential to implementing the risk-based approach
  • More on resilience in the new code, which made up a very small part of the previous codes
  • Guidance on innovation and how to embrace new practice
  • Winter maintenance section will be cut down to 70 pages with additional guidance held by the National Winter Service Research Group

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