Highways England is performing well but has areas for improvement, finds regulator

19 July 2017

The Annual Assessment of Highways England’s Performance by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), published today, has found that the company is performing well against most of its performance targets. ORR says however that continued improvement is needed to plan when work takes place throughout the year.

ORR, which is the official Monitor of Highways England, found that the company is meeting its targets to keep traffic flowing while delivering its programme of major improvements. It is continuing to focus on improving safety and is delivering a comprehensive health and safety plan. And it is starting to carry out its work more efficiently, making savings of £169m over the last two years.

The Annual Assessment notes however that Highways England narrowly missed its targets on road user satisfaction and network condition for 2016-17. Road user satisfaction was 89.1% against a target of 90% – down from 89.3% last year. The percentage of road in good condition was 94.3%, against a target of 95%. ORR will closely monitor the company’s plans to improve performance in these areas over the next year.

Highways England is improving its planning of major improvement schemes – a key recommendation of ORR’s last annual assessment, and of our Update Report in February 2017. The proposed changes aim to reduce disruption to road users and ease delivery constraints. They have the potential to give the company’s suppliers a more evenly spread timetable of work and should help to deliver future efficiency targets.

ORR has reviewed a sample of Highways England’s major schemes and carried out an in-depth review of how the company manages its assets. These reviews identified areas of good practice, but also opportunities for improvement. The company has engaged well with the reviews and committed to actions to address the issues raised.

Highways England now needs to improve its processes to show that it is delivering the right maintenance and renewals works to keep the network in good condition. It should also schedule work on its assets more evenly through the year.

Joanna Whittington, Chief Executive, Office of Rail and Road, said:

“Highways England has three main priorities: safety of road users and road workers, road user satisfaction, and delivery of the 5-year investment plan. The company will need to continue to work hard to achieve all three of these, while keeping on top of maintenance and renewals and meeting its £1.2bn savings target by 2020.

“We nevertheless welcome the company’s response to our concerns over the need to develop better plans for major improvement schemes. Highways England has also responded positively to recommendations from our in-depth review of how it manages its assets. Improvements that the company is planning in these areas will help deliver a better experience for road users and cost savings for taxpayers”.

Notes to editors

  1. ORR’s Annual Assessment of Highways England’s Performance, April 2016 – March 2017.
  2. ORR’s report Sample Based Review of Highways England’s Major Schemes (March 2017).
  3. ORR’s report Review of Highways England’s Maintenance and Renewals Delivery (March 2017).
  4. ORR’s report Highways England Supply Chain Capability Review (June 2017).
  5. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the UK’s rail regulator and highways monitor for England. It is responsible for monitoring Highways England’s delivery of the investment plan and performance outcomes for England’s motorways and trunk roads. These are set out in the 5-year Road Investment Strategy which runs from 2015 to 2020. 

    ORR protects the interests of rail and road users; improving the safety, value and performance of railways and roads, today and in the future. Follow us @railandroad.