ORR holds National Highways to account for its performance across the SRN, as set out in government’s second road investment strategy (RIS2). ORR sets out its view of how the company performed between April 2021 and March 2022 in its annual assessment, published on 14 July 2022.
In its assessment, ORR said that National Highways delivered against its 2020 safety target to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on the SRN. However, now that traffic levels have returned to close-to pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels, there is much more to do if the company is to meet its demanding 2040 ‘zero harm’ goal to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on its network. ORR will need to see a robust plan from the company setting out how it will achieve this.
On smart motorways, over the past year, ORR reported that National Highways has continued to deliver the government's smart motorways action plan, largely to time.
However, ORR has raised concerns about National Highways ability to achieve faster attendance by traffic officers to road incidents on certain sections of smart motorways.
At the time of publication, the company was still short of achieving its target of a 10-minute average traffic officer response to live lane incidents on sections of all lane running motorway with emergency areas more than one mile apart.
ORR also called on National Highways to take steps to demonstrate what it is doing to improve how it manages and upgrades assets on the road network. While the company has made some progress in its asset management maturity and is currently achieving its asset management targets for the current five-year funding period ending in 2025, it is yet to provide ORR with sufficient evidence that it is taking into account the long-term needs of its assets when making decisions about asset interventions. The renewals work it delivers must be targeted at the right asset at the right time in its lifecycle, to ensure best value for taxpayers and users of the network.
ORR’s report also found that National Highways’ performance against its environmental targets is varied. In 2021-22 the company responded well to new challenges and made good progress with its corporate carbon, noise, and air quality targets. But its current plans indicate that without the identification of further interventions it will miss its biodiversity target. ORR has required the company to provide it with a robust plan that will achieve its 2025 target of no net loss in biodiversity and National Highways will provide this to ORR.
The annual assessment also says that National Highways delivered its 2021-22 enhancements commitments, but there is more to do if the company is to deliver the full benefits and efficiencies of RIS2 on time and to budget. This means continuing to develop and improve how it prepares for and manages its enhancements project planning applications and working quickly to understand the full implications of the January 2022 pause on all new smart motorway construction.
ORR’s Director of Planning & Performance, Feras Alshaker said: