Future of Highways Agency in doubt

Grant Prior 12 years ago
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Plans unveiled today to reform the management of England’s motorways and trunk roads have cast a doubt over the future of the Highways Agency.

The Cook Review claims a revamp of road management can save £200m a year.

Author Alan Cook said: “The management of our strategic roads is at odds with every other major infrastructure sector in the UK.

“By applying the lessons learnt by the best performing companies in other sectors, there is the potential to save taxpayers at least £200 million a year after 5 years, and to provide a much better service for road users and the wider economy.”

The report recommends that the Secretary of State for Transport should take on a new, more strategic role in the management of the network.

It also recommends reforming the status of the current Highways Agency, giving it a more independent Board, which can make better and more flexible commercial decisions with greater financial autonomy.

Civil engineering contractors welcomed the review but believe changes should stop short of disbanding the Highways Agency.

CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “Despite being the single largest asset owned by the government, the development and maintenance of the strategic roads network has been held back by funding short-termism.

“For many years the industry has campaigned for greater long-term certainty for roads funding. We know from other sectors that longer funding cycles drive efficiency by allowing work to be more effectively managed, smoothing investment.

“As its title suggests, the recommendations of Alan Cook’s report offer a fresh start for the network, with a clear five-year vision that will enable the supply chain to respond more effectively to demand.

“But a fresh start should not mean a complete overhaul.

“We believe that in many of its activities the Highways Agency leads industry best practice.

“We hope that any reform will accommodate and build upon this existing capability, delivering the world class strategic network that road users demand.”

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