The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has praised the improvements delivered by Highways England but more evidence is required to ensure efficiency targets are being met, according to the annual assessment.
Responsible for the economic monitoring of Highways England, the ORR’s assessment of road performance comes three years into the first five-year period – an opportune time to see how the government’s Road Investment Strategy is faring.
The annual assessment of Highways England’s performance reveals that the operation of the network has remained steady throughout 2017-18; traffic is increasing, yet the network is flowing and road user safety is performing well compared to other road networks.
Road conditions have also improved, according to Richard Coates, Deputy Director of Highways at the ORR. He said this “is now at the target level, with at least 95% of the network in good condition.”
The severe weather conditions experienced earlier this year have affected the network, which increased the number of potholes reported. However, Highways England is identifying and managing these in order to ensure the roads are maintained.
Although the annual assessment highlighted the delivery of more improvements on the roads – Highways England has improved its planning and management of major schemes, the majority of which are being delivered on time – the forecast costs still remain above the organisation’s funding.
The ORR said: “It (Highways England) must continue to take action to manage this position. Investment through its ring fenced funds has increased, but is slower than originally planned.”
Elsewhere, the annual assessment reveals £486 million of cost savings – 40% of the target – have been made, with £226 million of this in 2017-18.
Specific improvements have been made, and Highways England has provided clear evidence of this.
Whilst this has been welcomed, the ORR added that more evidence is required to show that its road period target is on track.
“The company needs to continue to develop its evidence that reported savings are supported by its capital portfolio delivery and its unit costs.”