Annual assessment praises Highways England’s performance

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annual assessment of Highways England,
© Neacsu Razvan Chirnoaga

The annual assessment of Highways England has concluded that the company is largely doing a good job managing the country’s motorways and A-roads, but calls for improvement in some areas

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) have published its annual assessment of Highways England’s performance. The report shows that Highways England is meeting targets for maintaining roads, clearing incidents, reducing deaths and serious injuries and completing improvement schemes, and is delivering its work more efficiently.

However, the assessment also stated that although road user satisfaction remains high it is still below its target and Highways England needs to provide improved data to back up its efficiency claims.

Highways England was able to keep 98.3% of the network open to traffic in 2018-19 beating its target of 97% and also managed to clear 88% of incidents within an hour, 3% above the target. Despite this, traffic growth and increasing roadworks led to higher congestion.

A more structured approach to maintenance is paying off with 95.5% of road surface in good condition, slightly above the target.

From 2015-2020, Highways England originally planned to start 112 major schemes. However, it has agreed to changes with the Department for Transport, which mean that 70 are now likely to begin in that time in their current form. In 2018-19, four major schemes started work, with two revised to minimise road user disruption, and one which did not start as planned and is under review due to changes on adjacent local roads. Of seven schemes planned to open to traffic, six actually did.

The annual assessment of Highways England also revealed the number of people killed or seriously injured has reduced in the past four years and for 2017 – the year for which the most recent figures are available – fewer people were killed or seriously injured on the network than in any previous year.

On the environment, Highways England is also performing well-undertaking improvement work at 300 noise-important areas and meeting the commitments it made in the Biodiversity Action Plan.

It is also improving efficiency, although the company needs to do more work to provide supporting evidence to show how much the costs of work are coming down, according to the annual assessment of Highways England.

Graham Richards, ORR director of planning and performance, said: “Highways England is doing well. Its plans for delivering improvements have changed significantly, but it is generally delivering in line with the changed plan and it is keeping roads open and helping to make roads safer.

“However, it can improve further. Road user satisfaction is below target and congestion is rising and Highways England must take action in these areas. We will be working very closely with them to determine how they plan to further improve the service they provide to England’s motorists.”

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