Highways England is being renamed National Highways, even though it only looks after roads in part of the nation – the England bit.
The rationale given for claiming national authority is that it has a role in setting highways standards for the whole of the UK, even if the actual work is devolved to the regional governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
At the same time, Nick Harris has finally been officially given the job that he has already been doing for six months. He has been acting chief executive of Highways England since February, when predecessor Jim O’Sullivan completed his six months’ notice period. He now becomes the first chief executive of National Highways.
A civil engineer, Nick Harris joined Highways England in 2016 from the water industry. Chair Dipesh Shah said that over the past few months he had proved to be “a steady hand”.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has faith in him."Nick will be an excellent CEO," he said.
Looking after motorways and trunk roads in England used to be done by the Department of Transport until it created the Highways Agency in 1994. This changed its name to Highways England in 2015, with a new regulated funding arrangement based on five-year terms. We are currently in Road Investment Strategy 2, or RIS2, which runs from April 2020 until March 2025.