Highways England is equipping itself to give signficantly more crisis response help to councils and other organisations, following the success of its support to Cumbria CC after last winter’s floods.
The new approach is revealed in its Delivery Plan 2016-17, which sets out progress on its five-year plan and gives details of projects during the current year.
The A591 in Cumbria was badly damaged in last winter's floods
In the document, the Government-owned company says it is ‘proud’ of its recent work in Cumbria, including a major project to repair the flood damaged A591, which is not part of its Strategic Road Network (SRN).
Although it described that work at the time as a one-off, it is now making mutual aid to other organisations part of its wider crisis management response.
Having reviewed ‘how we could offer similar support in future emergencies to our partners, to share our expertise and capability’ Highways England is putting new arrangements in place. These will increase the number of senior staff available to lead its response to incidents and emergencies, ‘ensuring that work to keep our roads running are fully coordinated with the response of partners’.
The document adds that: ‘where we have the resources, will endeavour to provide support to deal with incidents off the SRN’. This could include traffic officers providing assistance to close local roads that have been damaged or flooded, or its contractors supplying sandbags or other equipment.
Highways England says where there is major damage to local highways infrastructure, its will proactively engage with local authorities ‘to help assess and understand the scale of the problem, before sharing our skills and expertise to identify the best response for customers’.
In the foreword to the document, chief executive Jim O’Sullivan says: ‘we are developing a new business model and reorganising the way we work to ensure that we are a high-performing organisation, responsive to our customers and are managing our work effectively and efficiently.’
Looking back at the company’s recent performance, Mr O’Sullivan says it has worked to progress our schemes in year one of the Road Period, ‘with a focus on the 112 major improvements as stated in the Roads Investment Strategy (RIS)’.
He adds: ‘We have also added over 90 lane miles of extra capacity to some of our busiest sections of motorway and resurfaced more than 1,200 miles of carriageway.’
Mr O’Sullivan also highlights work to supporting the Government’s ambitions for the Northern Powerhouse by accelerating the upgrade of the M62 to a to a 4-lane ‘smart motorway’, as well as supporting economic growth through the schemes in the Growth and Housing Fund.