ORR seeks improvement on Highways England’s capital planning, asset management and data reporting

2 February 2017

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today released its Update on Highways England’s capital planning and asset management, outlining Highways England’s progress in developing better plans for maintaining and improving the motorways and main A roads. It highlights areas where ORR expects further improvement, including Highways England’s management of the condition of roads.

The report notes:

  • Highways England is revising its plans about what capital projects it will deliver by 2020, their timings and expected costs. The revised plans, currently under development, are expected to mean a better spread of when schemes start, and should reduce disruption from roadworks for road users.
  • The updated plans may mean that some major improvement schemes are delayed or reviewed to make sure they deliver value for money. Highways England must agree the revised plans with government.
  • Highways England’s current forecast of capital costs – that is, costs of renewing and improving the network – is higher than its funding. Much of this difference is due to the company intentionally planning more work and expenditure than is funded in anticipation of some works being delayed or removed from the programme – which is an appropriate way to manage risk.
  • The company’s revised plans are likely to reduce, but not eliminate, the difference between current forecast costs and funding. The company must explain clearly how it will address the remaining difference.
  • Highways England was below its target for the condition of its road surface in 2015‑16 due to deterioration in skid resistance. Road condition has since improved, but it remains below target. Highways England has committed to produce a road condition improvement plan.
  • Highways England must improve its processes to make sure that it has up-to-date information about the condition of roads, and that it reports performance in a timely way.

ORR is carrying out further in-depth reviews of Highways England’s management of its major improvement schemes, and maintenance and renewals work, and will report on this in the summer.

ORR Highways Director, Peter Antolik, said:

"Highways England is taking action to improve planning and delivery, but it must now agree a robust, deliverable and affordable approach for its long-term investment plans.

"We also expect Highways England to improve how it manages road condition and to improve its reporting processes around critical data.

"We will be monitoring these areas closely and take action if improvements are not delivered."

Notes to editors

  1. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is the UK’s rail regulator and highways monitor for England. 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.
  2. Highways England is the government-owned company which manages the motorways and main A roads in England (the strategic road network).
  3. ORR’s Update on Highways England’s capital planning and asset management is available at: orr.gov.uk/publications/reports/update-on-highways-englands-capital-planning-and-asset-management
  4. The Update builds on core themes from our Annual assessment of Highways England’s performance, available here: orr.gov.uk/highways-monitor