Highways England in good health but safety target 'at risk'


Highways England is already exceeding some of its toughest targets, although the key measure of improving safety is 'at risk', according to the industry watchdog.

Formed out of the old Highways Agency from 1 April, Highways England’s six- month progress report from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found the new body has made a good start, although safety concerns took some of the shine of the achievement.

On the right track: Highways England backed by ORR

Early successes include:

  • On lane availability, Highways England is exceeding its target of 97%.
  • On clearing incidents, Highways England is exceeding its target of clearing 85% of incidents within one hour.
  • On pavement condition, the company is exceeding its target of 95% of pavement not requiring further investigation for possible maintenance.

However safety and project delivery were raised as areas of concerns.

The operator must push ahead with plans to improve safety performance on the strategic roads by ‘tackling the engineering challenges as well as influencing the behaviour of the drivers on the network’ the ORR said.

Highways England has a target to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the network by 40% by the end of 2020. Early progress, showing a 13.5% reduction in the number of people killed this year was tarnished by an overall 8.4% increase in total KSI numbers this year.

‘The increase in the KSI numbers represents a risk to hitting the main target,’ the ORR said.

It also called for ‘a clearer picture of how they will deliver planned improvements to motorways and ‘A’ roads’.

Highways England has to meet a total saving target of at least £1.212bn by 2018-20, although there are concerns from suppliers that the company is already tackling an overspend problem.

ORR's Highways director, Peter Antolik, said: ‘Highways England has made a positive start, especially given the ambitious programme of improvements to the strategic road network that will see over £15bn invested for the benefit of road users.

‘In its first six months since taking responsibility for managing the strategic road network, it has got to grips with its changed role and is performing well in key areas of improving the country’s strategic roads.

‘However, in some areas more is needed. The company needs to focus on improving safety on its roads, and to be clearer on the detail of some of the major road improvements that are planned.’

The next milestone will come in summer 2016, with the first annual assessment of Highways England’s performance, efficiency and delivery.


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