What is ORR’s role in relation to roads and highways in England?
We hold the company to account for the outputs that the government has set it in the RIS, the road investment strategy, and we're currently on the second road investment strategy that runs from 2020 to 2025. We also look at the long term efficiency of the strategic road network, that's the motorways and major A roads that National Highways looks after.
What is the purpose of the Annual Assessment?
Each year, we're required by legislation to lay in Parliament an assessment of National Highways' performance, and this is what we call our Annual Assessment, and this is our view on National Highways' performance in the year.
So National Highways have a key performance indicator to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our motorways and major A roads. And our report finds, they're largely on target to deliver that. However, we do raise some concerns about the company's ability to deliver ten-minute response times on certain sections of smart motorways, where spacing emergency refuge areas, as they know, are more than 1 mile apart. The company has to hit a target of ten minutes nationally on average and it hasn't been able to do that so far. So we identify that there's more work that needs to be done to achieve that.
The environment is a really important part of National Highways work and it affects all of us as citizens, taxpayers and road users. And National Highways had a bit of a mixed performance in terms of its environmental targets, it's largely doing very well on carbon in particular. But for biodiversity, it currently doesn't have a robust plan to deliver its target, no net loss by 2025. So we identify in our report that the company must provide us with a robust plan very soon so that it can demonstrate to us it's going to hit this target by 2025.
Good asset management is absolutely vital for infrastructure managers to secure long term value. While National Highways is achieving its targets for asset management within this five year period, it hasn't been able to show us the evidence that it's considering the long term implications of the decisions it makes today. So we're asking the company to improve the way it evidences to us the way it's considering the longer term needs of the asset base of the strategic road network.
How will ORR continue to hold National Highways to account in the future?
We also publish other documents about National Highways and strategic road network. In December this year, for the first time, we'll publish a safety report in response to the Transport Select Committee's recommendations on smart motorways. And later in the winter, towards February, we will publish our Annual Benchmarking report, which looks at how National Highways regions are performing in comparison with each other and other benchmarks.