Benchmarking Highways England
11 February 2016
We are coming to the end of the first year for the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) as the Highways Monitor and for Highways England in its role as steward of the English Strategic Road Network (SRN). In that time, ORR’s Highways team has built up a good feel for how Highways England is performing against the obligations and targets in the Road Investment Strategy.
However, deepening that understanding of how it is performing - assessing its strengths, weaknesses and what opportunities there are for it to improve - rests in part on understanding what is achieved by comparable organisations. Therefore, benchmarking Highways England’s performance and efficiency against others is a core activity for us at the ORR.
Last year we began work to understand the best way to carry out that benchmarking – how we would size up Highways England’s performance against that of other road authorities and similar organisations. The first step was to commission a study, in collaboration with Highways England, on the information and analysis that already existed.
The study looked at who was active in benchmarking, whether there were any quick wins available to Highways England and the longer term options for developing a sophisticated and effective benchmarking proposition. Today we’re publishing that scoping study; it sets out a range of ideas and opportunities from short-term performance and efficiency studies, to longer-term network and capability building. We are carefully considering these to design a benchmarking approach that helps Highways England and the the ORR in our joint objectives of supporting high performance on the SRN.
We shouldn’t forget that it is still early days for both us and Highways England; in March we will publish an initial approach to benchmark Highways England, taking forward the themes in the scoping study and setting out the path to get from where we are today to where we think we should be in the future.
However, March’s plan will not be the end of the story; it is an important point on the path, but as we learn more about what opportunities and limitations there are in benchmarking Highways England, we will have to regularly take a step back and consider what works. As such, our benchmarking programme is going to be an evolving and iterative piece which adapts over time in order to realise its full potential to make a beneficial contribution to supporting Highways England’s performance. We’ll continue to engage closely with stakeholders as the plan evolves, and welcome views and contributions on our approach.
David Hunt is Head of Economics and Policy for ORR’s Highways Directorate.