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The president of the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE) has responded to the government’s call for action to the highways supply chain.

Roads Minister Robert Goodwill recently made a speech calling on the industry to get ready for a large increase in work ahead of the government’s biggest investment (£24 billion) in the road network since the 1970s.

Speaking in his President’s Blog Richard Hayes (pictured) said: “Two main questions come to mind in response to this announcement: What will be the reaction of the general supply chain? And, do we have sufficient expertise to deliver best value solutions and real benefits through great engineering?

The recent downsizing and aggregation of the major construction players does mean a smaller resource and long-term funding will have to be guaranteed before these companies invest in plant equipment and skills.

“The Minister says in his speech, that it takes three years to train a civil engineering graduate but simply increasing graduate numbers will not provide the talent pool to address the current shortfall in the appropriate skills.

“We need to see that the current good practice to deliver road maintenance works is harnessed and passed on to many others but this may need some form of financial stimulus to assist those organisations who are struggling at present to keep their current staff as the cuts in government spending still take effect.”

Hayes also paid tribute to the highways staff that have had to deal with the effects of the worst levels of rainfall for 250 years in the south and west of England.

He added: “The length of time of the emergency puts a tremendous strain on resources and all the staff whose lives are fully devoted to assisting those in difficulty. Eventually, there will be an end but the fatigue being felt at present is putting great strain and I can only admire the contribution these individuals are making.

“When the inquests are eventually held there will be learning outcomes which could help reduce the effects of future events but in any review, the dedication and efforts of local highways employees should be recognised and supported appropriately.”