RIS2: Holding Highways England to account

30 March 2020

By Sarah Robinson, Senior Policy Advisor, Highways.

Sarah Robinson1 April 2020 marks the start of the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2), which sets out the funding available to Highways England for the government’s five-year strategic vision for investment in and management of the strategic road network from April 2020 to March 2025.

As Highways Monitor, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) independently monitors Highways England’s management of the motorways and main A-roads in England. In doing so, we provide independent assurance to road users, government and wider stakeholders that Highways England is held to account.

Preparing for RIS2

In January this year, as part of our preparations for the start of RIS2, we consulted on updating our monitoring framework and enforcement policy for Highways England.

Our new policy, which has been published today, sets out how we will hold Highways England to account and the actions we may take to secure improvement. We will focus on early resolution of issues wherever possible; introduce hearings as an additional tool; and have made changes to how we would consider setting the size of a fine.

Following our consultation, we have also made some amendments to our policy, including clarifying the process for notifying Highways England of our intent to take statutory enforcement action, should we decide to do so, and added new text to our policy that recognises that we may need to draw on the insight of stakeholders, including local and regional bodies, when gathering information.

The decision letter accompanying our final policy sets out more about changes we have made, and how we have considered stakeholder feedback.

The next five years

Our approach provides continuity from RIS1 to RIS2, retaining a staged approach to the escalation of issues, whilst expanding on and updating the tools available to us. For example, the addition of hearings provides a useful addition to our toolkit in the early resolution and investigation stage.

Our strongest sanctions such as fines, which our policy is clear should be a last resort, remain available and have been updated to ensure they strike the right balance as a deterrent while seeking to better protect the funding available for Highways England to do its day job.

We thank all those that responded to our consultation. This marks the conclusion of a piece of work which we had always intended to complete ahead of the second road period, though many of us are of course working in very different circumstances at present.

As you would expect we have been engaging closely with Highways England in recent days and weeks, and will be continuing to do so in the weeks ahead, taking a pragmatic approach to our work as Monitor in the present circumstances.