In response to the publication of an interim review of Highways England by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), road pressure group Transport Focus has aired its concerns that Highways England may have underestimated the true cost of delivering all of its planned road improvements.
Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: Road users will be concerned that planned improvements to England’s motorways and major roads could cost more than the money Highways England has available. They’ll want to know that work to tackle congestion and improve safety will definitely still be delivered.
The ORR report, which was delivered on the 7th February 2017, has highlighted that: Highways England’s current forecast of capital costs that is, costs of renewing and improving the network is higher than its funding. Much of this difference is due to the company intentionally planning more work and expenditure than is funded in anticipation of some works being delayed or removed from the programme which is an appropriate way to manage risk.
ORR Highways Director, Peter Antolik, said: “Highways England is taking action to improve planning and delivery, but it must now agree a robust, deliverable and affordable approach for its long-term investment plans.
As the report denotes, Highways England was below its target for the condition of its road surface in 2015/16 due to deterioration in skid resistance. Road condition has since improved, but it remains below target. Highways England has committed to producing a road condition improvement plan.
Mr. Antolik continued: “We also expect Highways England to improve how it manages road condition and to improve its reporting processes around critical data.”
“We will be monitoring these areas closely and take action if improvements are not delivered.”
Mr. Smith added: “Our research shows that road surface quality is drivers highest priority for improvement to England’s motorways and major roads. So road users will be worried that the condition of Highways England’s roads is below the target set by the government. They’ll expect to see a clear plan to get surface quality heading in the right direction.
This type of assessment, aligned to our road user research, should result in road users getting what they need. Transport Focus is currently researching exactly what road users’ want to see improved when it comes to road surfaces, working closely with Highways England.