Regulator reassured by Highways England improvements


Highways England is performing well against most of its performance targets but has areas for improvement, according to the latest report from its regulator.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the official ‘monitor’ of the Government-owned company. Its Annual Assessment of Highways England’s Performance found that Highways England is meeting its targets to keep traffic flowing while delivering its programme of major improvements.

It is also continuing to focus on improving safety and delivering a comprehensive health and safety plan.

Highways England chief executive Jim O'Sullivan

Highways England has started to carry out its work more efficiently, making savings of £169m over the last two years. However the ORR said continued improvement is needed to plan when work takes place throughout the year.

ORR chief executive Joanna Whittington said: ‘Highways England has three main priorities: safety of road users and road workers, road user satisfaction, and delivery of the 5-year investment plan. The company will need to continue to work hard to achieve all three of these, while keeping on top of maintenance and renewals and meeting its £1.2bn savings target by 2020.

‘We nevertheless welcome the company’s response to our concerns over the need to develop better plans for major improvement schemes. Highways England has also responded positively to recommendations from our in-depth review of how it manages its assets. Improvements that the company is planning in these areas will help deliver a better experience for road users and cost savings for taxpayers.’

The ORR noted that Highways England narrowly missed its targets on road user satisfaction and network condition for 2016-17. As reported last week, road user satisfaction was 89.1% against a target of 90% – down from 89.3% last year.

The percentage of road in good condition was 94.3%, against a target of 95%. The ORR said it will closely monitor the company’s plans to improve performance in these areas over the next year.

The regulator added that Highways England is improving its planning of major improvement schemes – a key recommendation of ORR’s last annual assessment, and of its Update Report in February.

It said the proposed changes ‘have the potential to give the company’s suppliers a more evenly spread timetable of work and should help to deliver future efficiency targets’.

The ORR also reviewed a sample of Highways England’s major schemes and carried out an in-depth review of how the company manages its assets. It said these reviews ‘identified areas of good practice, but also opportunities for improvement’.

The ORR’s four key messages for 2016-17:

1. Highways England’s performance remains good across a range of measures.

2. Highways England has missed its targets on road user satisfaction and network condition.

3. Highways England has improved its planning of major improvements.

4. Highways England has further work to do to improve its asset management.


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