Why it’s vital to put customers at the heart of measuring performance on our roads

31 March 2017

By Peter Antolik, Director, Highways.

Understanding road user needs is vital in developing robust and resilient ways to track performance on the motorway and major A-road network operated by Highways England. This is why we conducted a study along with Transport Focus to see exactly what matters to road customers and what they see as key measures for success.

Highways England itself is on a journey from being an infrastructure manager to becoming an increasingly customer focused and responsive organisation. This report: ‘Measuring performance of England’s Strategic Roads: what road users want’, provides Highways England with clear views of what matters to its customers and how network performance should be measured in a meaningful way.

We believe that the findings of this research will help Highways England to develop a suite of performance measures for its network for the next roads investment strategy (to 2025).

We have also shared the findings with the Department for Transport as it considers the performance targets that it will apply. We intend to review Highways England’s proposals against road user opinion in a final stage of the research.

The research shows that:

  • For drivers, the main concern is around journey times – arriving when they estimate they should, and avoiding wide variations in travel time for the same trip. The latter is particularly important for freight and logistics operators who also contributed to the research.
  • For cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, who travel along the A-roads, or need to cross Highways England’s network, the key success factor is safety.

It is important to note that many of the key themes that road users want reflected in future performance measures for Highways England, are already included in the Performance Specification in the Government’s first 5-year Road Investment Strategy(RIS) to 2020. However, based on this new research of road users, we can see that there are gaps in the current Performance Specification – most notably around journey time, for which there are no targets, and on signage and information.

Consumer engagement in framing service and investment priorities of regulated companies is a well-established practice. In fact, on rail regulation, ORR has already required Network Rail to set out how it will reflect customer views in its plans, including its performance measures, in the upcoming 2018 Periodic Review of outputs and funding for control period 6 (2019-24).

We monitor Highways England against a series of eleven key performance indicators as well as wider range of other measures and we report on its progress annually. Our second annual performance report for Highways England will be published in the summer.

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