Highways England could face an early investigation from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) after major overruns on engineering work in Chester, Transport Network can reveal.
The work has resulted in long tailbacks and congestion on parallel routes but cannot be investigated until after the ORR has consulted on its proposed monitoring system for Highways England. The consultation closes on 19 June, leaving a gap in the scrutiny of the strategic road network.
An ORR spokeswoman told Transport Network: ‘At the moment we’re establishing our monitoring regime. This is something we will pick up on – delivery issues like this – in our regular performance meetings with Highways England. We’re aware of the situation and it will be stuff that we can pick up on when the consultation finishes.’
In March, Transport Network highlighted the differing degrees of scrutiny for road and rail engineering works as exemplified by responses to recent Network Rail overruns and to a six-week overrun on the Highways Agency’s A55 and A483 pinch-point scheme south of Chester.
Completion of the pinch-point scheme has now been deferred by a further seven weeks, to 28 June, for additional bridge strengthening work and to enable a third lane on the Posthouse roundabout to be opened during Chester Racecourse’s three-day May Festival.
A spokesperson for Highways England said: 'We are doing everything we can to complete the A55/A483 scheme as quickly as possible. We have rescheduled the street lighting installation work to take place overnight in July, so that we are able to fully open the roundabout and start operating the traffic lights from Monday 29 June.
'This is a complex scheme as it involves strengthening two bridges over the A55 so that the roundabout is suitable for four lanes of traffic, including HGVs.
'When we began working on the bridges, we discovered that the internal structures were different to what had been anticipated by our engineers. This has meant the design has needed to be changed and additional bridge strengthening work needs to be carried out.'
Highways England replaced the Highways Agency on 1 April, with the ORR tasked with independent monitoring of Highways England’s performance and efficiency on the strategic road network.
The ORR reported on the Christmas rail disruption and public outcries resulted in a public apology from Network Rail's Mark Carne, who also refused to accept his annual bones as a result.