Holding National Highways to account


We are responsible for monitoring and enforcing the performance and efficiency of National Highways.

National Highways maintains, renews, operates and aims to improve the strategic road network – the motorways and main 'A' roads in England. 

Our monitoring role was established under legislation in 2015, as part of the government’s roads reform package. We scrutinise the company and hold it to account for its management of the strategic road network – including delivery of performance and efficiency. 

We also advise the government on the appropriate level of funding and performance requirements for future road periods to help frame challenging and deliverable performance and efficiency requirements. These requirements are set out by the government in road investment strategies (RIS).

Our road functions (England only)

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As part of its roads reform package, the government set up a new company to maintain, renew, operate and improve the motorways and main ‘A’ roads in England – this is National Highways (formerly Highways England). 

It set up a Watchdog –Transport Focus – to champion the needs to road users. Our role as the Highways Monitor is to hold the company to account and where necessary advise the Secretary of State. 

At a high level there are four main aspects to our role:

  • to monitor how well National Highways is delivering against the Performance Specification, Investment Plan and aspects of its Licence, to publicly report our findings and to advise the Secretary of State;
  • where we have concerns about the company’s ability to deliver against its requirements, to seek improvements and potentially levy a fine (together, 'enforcement');
  • to advise the Secretary of State on the development of the next RIS, including advice on setting challenging and deliverable efficiencies; and
  • to advise the Secretary of State on any other relevant issues.

The monitoring framework requires National Highways to publish extensive information on its plans and performance, and we make public our assessment of its operational and financial performance each year.

Further information as to the scope of our role is set out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Department for Transport (DfT) and ORR and statutory guidance


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To tell us about something you have discovered or seen in the course of your work on the strategic roads network (roads controlled by National Highways) or about your work with National Highways.

ORR is a prescribed person under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998) (PIDA). We are required to provide workers with a way to make a public interest disclosure ('blow the whistle') where they do not feel able to disclose to their employer and they think that the ORR might be in a position to act on their disclosure.

PIDA is narrowly focused on giving employment protections to those who raise legitimate public interest concerns with us about:

"Matters relating to —

  1. the provision and supply of railway services; and
  2. any activities not covered by (a) in relation to which the Office of Rail and Road has functions."

Workers (including contractors) can talk to us about anything they have seen that causes them concern if they think it raises a matter of public interest that they feel unable to discuss with their employer.

Workers should contact the Board Secretary with their concerns, making clear that they consider themselves to be a whistleblower 0207 282 2093 or boardsecretariat@orr.gov.uk.

In order for ORR to be able to consider whether it needs to investigate further or take action on the disclosure the Board Secretary will:

  • work with the whistleblower to clarify and understand the information offered (the disclosure), including the degree of urgency, and the need for anonymity;
  • discuss the disclosure confidentially with appropriate staff, including our legal team;
  • advise the relevant director who will determine the course of action to be undertaken with the disclosed information;
  • explain to the whistleblower what they can expect following the disclosure.

If you want free confidential advice on what is protected by PIDA and whether this is the best way to address your concern, organisations like Public Concern at Work can help.

Who we work with

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As part of our role we work with a wide range of stakeholders in the highways sector.

Our role requires us to build a strong understanding of the company, how it operates and its challenges and opportunities.

We work closely with Transport Focus to understand highways users' interests and priorities, and to determine whether the company is delivering on improved user satisfaction.

We also seek to engage other stakeholders affected by our role and National Highways' performance and efficiency – including road user groups, the supply chain and bodies representing those affected by the network. If you would like to get in touch with us please email us.

How we are funded

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Our roads work is entirely funded by a grant from the Department for Transport (DfT). This is different from our rail safety and economic regulation activities that are funded by levying charges on the rail industry. These separate funding streams creates a clear distinction between our road and rail functions, and provide assurance to our funders. We have set up internal processes to ensure that there is clear delineation between resources spent on highways and rail.

The Department for Transport and the Treasury make decisions on our funding as part of each Spending Review.