Prevention and a Better Cure


The first HMEP (Highway Maintenance Efficiency Programme) product the Pothole Review was published on the DfT website on 10 April .The report was delivered in line with key attributes of the Programme:-

*  by the sector for the sector
*  centred on practical ,adaptable approaches;
*  results-focused

The Pothole Review was one of the first tasks I was asked to undertake following my secondment to DfT  last July.

The approach adopted in taking forward the review based on experience in producing other national guidance while Chair of the UK Roads Board.  The key attributes being:-

* getting the right team in place to undertake the work
* ensuring there was ongoing sector engagement and; * that there were strict project management disciplines     in place.

The consultancy commission  to support the work was awarded to Atkins . A decision was made from the start to have a Project Board consisting of representatives from all the key stakeholder groups which included 20 different organisations with representatives from central and local government, industry and road user groups.

The first stage was to produce an interim progress report which was published in December this set out :-

* the principles of the review
* the key lines of enquiry for the review and :
* listed 10 initial findings

The report was produced on time , within budget and with the support of the sector.

So what are the key recommendations in the final report?

·    Prevention is better than cure – intervening at the right time will reduce the amount of potholes forming and prevent bigger problems later.
·    Right first time – do it once and get it right, rather than face continuous bills.  Guidance, knowledge and workmanship are the enablers to do this.
·    Clarity for the public – local highway authorities need to communicate to the public what is being done and how it is being done.

There is in all 17 recommendations which underpin these 3 themes each of which if implemented would lead to more effective outcomes in managing our  road networks.

The importance of drawing on existing good practice  was recognised from the start as there was already plenty of good examples of  how Local Highway Authorities were more effective managing there road assets . This was therefore one of the key requirements of the review to identify and assess what was good practice and show case this in the report. In all 24 case studies are referred in the report plus more detail information on not just these case studies but further supplementary information is available on the HMEP website.

In order to bring the report to the attention of key decision makers within Local Highway Authorise an initial e-mail letter from the Minister was sent with a web-link to the Political Leaders of Councils. This has been followed up by the distribution of hard copies with a letter from DfT to all the Heads of Highways.

Producing the report is an important milestone but unless the recommendations are implemented then nothing will change .The Pot Hole Review Project Board will therefore be meeting one more time to agree an action plan to ensure there is a clear way forward to progress all 17 recommendations.  All the stakeholder groups will be asked through their networks to help support the delivery of these recommendations.

I would hope other Councils would adopt the approach we are taking in my own authority Leicestershire where we will be undertaking a review of how our service relates to recommendations in the Report and from this identify what changes we may need to take as a consequence and then report to the County Council's Cabinet for Political endorsement.

The DfT have already shown there commitment to support the Review by implementing there part of Recommendation 5 by confirming to all Highway authorities the capitalised maintenance allocations up to 2015.

Taking on board the recommendations of the Review will not mean the end of pot-holes but it will make  difference in reducing the problem and the impact on all road users.

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