ORR Five Year Assessment: Highways England achieves targets but improvements must continue

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Highways England has delivered the majority of its commitments and made good progress over the first road period but the programme set out for major improvements was too optimistic.

The company must also continue to improve safety for all road users, further involve its customers into planning and decision making, and work even more efficiently over the second road period (RP2).

The verdict comes in a five-year assessment report published today* (21 July) by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), which looked at Highways England’s performance over the last five years, covering what’s known as Road Period 1.

The ORR had made a number of observations on the delivery risk of the programme which saw substantial re-planning from 112 schemes that were due to have started construction in the first road period to just 73, agreed with the Department for Transport

Re-planning also addressed concerns raised by ORR in reducing disruption to road users.

ORR say further hard work is required however if Highways England is to meet its safety target for 2020; and further investment is needed to meet its longer-term goal: that nobody should be harmed on the network by 2040.

The five-year assessment marks the end of the first road period. ORR has played a vital role to improve the transparency and quality of Highways England’s financial reporting – with the company delivering £1.4bn efficiency savings over five years.

ORR also pursued an overdue backlog of structures inspections, as well as relentlessly monitoring Highways England’s work to improve road users’ experience following aspects of poor performance.

John Larkinson, Office of Rail and Road Chief Executive, said:

“Highways England was set up in 2015 as a result of the UK government’s programme for roads reform, and the ORR took on its scrutiny role. The reform brought an unprecedented level of investment planning and government’s promise of secure funding.

“Over the last five years Highways England has made very good progress and we have seen it meeting almost all of the targets it was set. We have pushed Highways England hard to deliver on safety, efficiency and meeting the needs of road users.

“Highways England’s task is going to get bigger, as it needs to deliver a larger programme of works set out in the Government’s 2020 Road Investment Strategy, and we will continue to provide close scrutiny.”

Notes to editors
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  1. *Annual Assessment of Highways England; End of Road Period 1; 2015-2020
     
  2. The ORR’s job as Highways Monitor is to ensure that Highways England delivers its major programme of investment and other performance commitments. Highways England has delivered a £15 billion investment programme in England’s strategic road network – the motorways and some A roads Highways England manage – up until 2019-20. It is part of our job to report on Highways England’s progress in delivering this investment, on budget and to time.
     
  3. In 2018, 2,152 people were killed or seriously injured on the strategic road network. This represents a 30% reduction from the baseline period (2005-09);if this rate of improvement were to be sustained by Highways England however it would not meet its safety target of a 40% reduction by the end of 2020; further work is required to achieve this.
     
  4. The coronavirus pandemic emerged in the final weeks of the first road period. This resulted in significantly reduced traffic on the road network towards the end of March 2020. Highways England’s performance is largely unaffected however because most performance indicators are measured on an annual basis, and cover a full year up to the end of March.