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Sun October 17 2021

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Regulator gives Highways England clean bill of health

19 Jul 19 The 2019 annual assessment of Highways England’s performance by the industry regulator concludes that the company is largely doing a good job.

The Office of Rail & Road (ORR) report shows that Highways England is meeting targets for maintaining roads, clearing incidents, reducing deaths and serious injuries and completing improvement schemes. It is also delivering its work more efficiently.

Highways England was able to keep 98.3% of the network open to traffic in 2018/19, beating its target of 97%, and also managed to clear 88% of incidents within an hour, 3% above the target. Despite this, traffic growth and increasing roadworks led to increased congestion.

The ORR said that a more structured approach to maintenance was paying off, with 95.5% of road surface in good condition, slightly above the target.

Between 2015 and 2020 Highways England originally planned to start 112 major schemes. However, it has agreed changes with the Department for Transport, which mean that 70 are now likely to begin in that time in their current form. In 2018/19, four major schemes started work, with two revised to minimise road user disruption, and one which did not start as planned and is under review due to changes on adjacent local roads. Of seven schemes planned to open to traffic, six actually did.

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The ORR does say, however, that Highways England should produce better data to support its efficiency improvement claims to show how much the costs of work are coming down.

ORR director of planning and performance Graham Richards said: “Highways England is doing well. Its plans for delivering improvements have changed significantly, but it is generally delivering in line with the changed plan and it is keeping roads open and helping to make roads safer.

“However, it can improve further. Road user satisfaction is below target and congestion is rising and Highways England must take action in these areas. We will be working very closely with them to determine how they plan to further improve the service they provide to England’s motorists.”

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