The Office of Rail and Road – a new watchdog formed out of the Office of Rail Regulation today – has launched a consultation on its plans for monitoring the performance of Highways England.
The watchdog will be responsible for issuing fines to the new strategic highways company in the event of work failures and will also advise the government on levels of funding and performance requirements for future road periods.
ORR highways director Peter Antolik said: 'We are looking forward to working with stakeholders as we develop our new highways monitoring function. Our focus is on putting in place a highly effective monitoring regime to track Highways England's performance against its Roads Investment Strategy and the delivery of clear benefits for all road users.
'This is an exciting time for ORR as the new role builds on our skills and expertise as the independent economic and safety regulator for the railways. It also enables greater synergies between the two sectors as we share our knowledge and experience in vital areas such as asset management, engineering and performance assessment.'
A monitoring framework outlined in the document has six steps, covering:
- setting out the information we require and agreeing how it should be provided;
- gathering that information;
- monitoring and reporting on the delivery of the Performance Specification, Investment Plan and aspects of the licence;
- monitoring and reporting on plans that Highways England is already formulating to tackle areas needing improvement;
- identification and escalation of new issues; and
- enforcement, where appropriate through informal action, improvement notices and fines
It will also work closely with Transport Focus – formally Passenger Focus – which will act as a passenger watchdog surveying and representing the views of users.
The two groups will determine whether the company is delivering on improved user satisfaction, with ORR ensuring the company is ‘making a real contribution to economic growth and delivering value for money for stakeholders’.
After identifying a range of challenges - including the need for further development in some areas of the company’s business management reporting - the ORR has agreed with Highways England that a data improvement plan is needed to improve data quality.
‘We are working on the scope of this improvement plan with Highways England and expect the plan to be agreed in Summer 2015. Before the improvement plan delivers the information we require, we will use Highways England’s current data,’ the consultation states.
ORR is seeking comments from all interested parties by 19 June 2015.