Highways England ‘Must Change Planning Process,’ says UK Roads Watchdog

The UK’s roads watchdog has warned Highways England that it must change its planning processes if it is to be successful in delivering its £15 billion Road Investment Strategy.

If the agency is to meet its delivery targets for the rest of the programme, the Office of Road and Rail said that the agency would require a more “robust internal planning process.”

The comments came in the ORR’s first yearly review of the performance of Highways England which stated that the agency has made a “good start” to RIS by spending in line with the agreed funding and meeting all of its performance targets.

However, there were concerns raised over the ability of Highways England to deal with “future risks” including skills shortages as workloads increased.

In 2015/16, Highways England spent just more than £1.7 billion on renewals and enhancements, which will rise to £2.2 billion the following year and £3 billion in 2020.

Joanna Whittington, Chief Executive of ORR, warned that most of its delivery targets had been set for the latter stages of its five year funding period and the agency required “more work to do to demonstrate how it will ensure delivery of its capital investment plan.”

Whittington added: “The company needs to be clear about how it will manage some specific risks, such as those associated with the availability of skilled workforce and capacity of the supply chain to deliver.”

The report also stated that the sector’s “strongest capacity constraint” was its ability to attract people with the appropriate skill set.

Earlier in the week it was revealed that Highways England was to replace the current Collaborative Delivery Framework with a £7 billion framework.

As part of its plans, Jim O’Sullivan, Chief Executive, outlined plans for a “route to market” initiative that would consult suppliers on how the framework should be shaped moving forward.


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BDC 305 Jun 2023