Last edited 23 Mar 2017

Highways England

On 1 April 2015, The Highways Agency was replaced by a new body, Highways England.

This change was announced on 27 June 2013 by Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and introduced by the Infrastrucure Act 2015. It brings Highways Agency activities into government ownership and is intended to ensure funding can be allocated on a longer-term basis, giving greater certainty over upgrades to the highways network and saving the taxpayer £2.6 billion over 10 years.

Highways England is a government-owned company that works with the Department for Transport to operate, maintain and improve England’s motorways and major A roads. It also manages and helps prevent incidents on England’s motorways through its uniformed Traffic Officer service.

It has 3,500 staff based at offices in Guildford, Bedford, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Exeter. Oversight is provided by the Office of Rail and Road (formerly the Office of Rail Regulation), who monitor the performance and efficiency of the company, and Transport Focus who act as a watchdog for road users.

The 4,300 miles of road network for which Highways England is responsible represents just 2% of all roads in England by length, but it carries a third of all traffic by mileage and two thirds of all heavy goods traffic.

On 26 March 2015, just before its launch, Highways England published a five year plan setting out how £11 billion of investment will be delivered, including:

  • 112 major improvements, including 15 smart motorway projects providing 280 extra miles of capacity, and resurfacing the majority of the network.
  • Providing a more accessible road system delivering more than 150 new cycling facilities and crossings, and cycle-proofing new schemes.
  • Reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on the network by 40% from the 2010 baseline.

Graham Dalton, Chief Executive of Highways England said: “The launch of Highways England is an incredibly significant moment for those who rely on England’s motorways and major A roads. As well as delivering the biggest investment in major roads since the 1970s, there will be fundamental changes to the way motorways and major A roads are maintained and operated. We will be focussing on customers, providing better travel information before and during journeys, improving safety and reducing the impact of roadworks.”

In March 2017, the National Audit Office (NAO) suggested that Highways England’s Road Investment Strategy was unrealistic, saying; “The Department and Highways England need to agree a more realistic and affordable plan if they are to provide optimal value from the Road Investment Strategy... Highways England has been working to address the risks to deliverability, affordability and value for money that were present in 2015, but we are now nearly two years into the five-year road investment period. Decisive action needs to be taken before the updated delivery plan is published in the summer if shortcomings in the current strategy are not to be carried over into future road investment periods.”

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