Transport Network can reveal that Highways England's Passport scheme is about a year behind schedule and has been changed to allow other cards to be used.
Highways England launched its Passport system last November in the hope that all suppliers would have their staff registered and supplied with the cards within 12 months.
The idea was that the smart card would be the exclusive proof of access to Highways England work sites, providing details on qualifications, workers hours, training and suitability to be present for work.
Now, Highways England has said other validated construction industry or rail cards including the Construction Skills Certification Scheme can be used.
The costs to workers have also been twice the amount expected - £30 for the card and £30 for the training certificate for the induction. Update: Highways England has since clarified that the extra £30 for training was always a planned cost.
It is also unclear how much the system is being enforced. One source said: ‘It has all gone quiet. I have not heard anything about the cards.’
This has left workers who paid for the card on top of such earlier schemes out of pocket.
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: ‘The passport scheme has not had the take up of what we would have liked. The take up is less than half of what we would have liked it to have been. As we move to the new framework agreements it is something we are going to have to visit again.
'We did change the requirement of the passport scheme. We recognise now some of the other cards. When we first started talking about the passport we said we wanted this exclusively. We have moved to a point now where we are saying provided you have a recognised qualification which can be the Highways England passport. The reason for that was not to impose unnecessary costs on contractors who are rail qualified, or have signed up to other industry schemes.’
As of October 2018, 9,287 people have been issued cards, while 2,220 people have completed the training, 4,260 have been booked on the course and 2,807 are scheduled to do so.
It is estimated that there are up to 20,000 operatives across all Highways England schemes and projects.
The proof of concept trial will run until October 2019 to test the end to end mechanics of how the cards work on the ground.
Once this trial has been validated, Highways England still has the target of everyone having a passport. Highways England also said it has learnt lessons during our first year in administrating, including compliance with the introduction of GDPR and connection to smartphone technology.
Andrew Page-Dove, regional director for operations said: ‘Safety is Highways England’s first imperative and this partnership with the supply chain is an ambitious initiative that will help us keep our workers safe while improving the roads that connect the country.
‘The health and safety passport provides a common site safety approach which ensures all workers are competent and authorised to be on site.
‘We are a year into the two-year proof of concept trial, and with nearly 10,000 workers holding a passport card, we are gaining essential feedback to enable us to take it forward more widely across the supply chain and help further improve safety for all.’
Find out more information and the latest on the Passport scheme here.