Benchmarking Highways England

25 February 2020

By Adedayo Alao, Analyst - Highways.

Adedayo AlaoWe’re now in our fourth year of publishing data benchmarking how Highways England performs across different regions. This wealth of information has given us a deep insight into understanding variations across regions and informing the advice we gave to government on Highways England's plans for the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2).

Why we benchmark

Benchmarking helps us to identify opportunities for improvement and to work with Highways England to adopt best practices for the benefit of road users. It also improves the transparency of performance variation across regions of the strategic road network. We have also looked into benchmarking Highways England’s performance against other road authorities. This information empowers us to push for an efficient and reliable way of doing things. An opportunity to adopt ‘what works’ for road users.

What we’ve found

User Satisfaction: Using the National Road Users' Satisfaction Survey (NRUSS) we see that the North West recorded its highest score (84%) over the four years of our regional benchmarking analysis. This ties with the completion of major improvement projects in the region. By contrast, the South East recorded its lowest score of 86% - largely driven by the effects of poor weather at the start of the year. The East region remains the best performer across the regions since the start of the Road Investment Strategy, recording a satisfaction score of at least 90%.

Road Condition: Highways England exceeded its national target result for road condition in 2018-19. However, the East and Midlands regions have not recorded a score above the 95% national target level since the start of the Road Investment Strategy. This is likely related to the amount of concrete road surface in those regions –an issue which Highways England should begin to address in road period 2.

Average delay: Managing the level of delay on the network is important for facilitating economic growth. Highways England does not have a national target for average delay, and the drivers of regional differences are complex. Average delay across the regions have increased compared to 2015-16 except for Yorkshire and North East. We also noticed a reduction in average delay across the North West this year. As with the improvement in user satisfaction in the region, this could be linked to the completion of major projects.

Maintenance and renewals: We have noticed fluctuations in regional maintenance and renewal spending per lane mile across the years. In this year’s report, maintenance and renewal spending, and the differences between regions, reduced to the 2016-17 level, reversing a spike of higher spending and regional differences seen last year. This is encouraging but it is difficult to draw conclusions on efficiency from such simple metrics. We will gain greater insight as Highways England collects more detailed data.

Moving forward

Our benchmarking centres on identifying areas to improve the road user experience across the strategic road network. We have seen clear benefits from this work and in the next RIS we will further develop our regional benchmarking, evidence on road condition and costs and targeted analysis of other sectors and countries.