The Construction Index:

The Office of Rail & Road (ORR) has opened an investigation into the performance of National Highways amid concerns about its management of the motorway and trunk road network.

The industry regulator says that it has usually managed to work with National Highways to resolve any issues before they became a real problem. But now it feels the need for a wider intervention. It has decided to investigate “whether National Highways is taking every action that could reasonably be expected of it to meet its targets”.

ORR’s annual assessment of National Highways’ performance, published in July 2023, identified a number of potential risks, such as delivery of its capital portfolio and asset management strategy. Since then, ORR has observed that those risks have materialised and performance has dipped across several areas.

The investigation will look at the root causes of National Highways’ dip in performance and whether the company has the processes in place to deliver its commitments by the end of the current regulatory period in March 2025.

The investigation will look at whether National Highways has identified, and is taking, every action that could reasonably be expected of it to achieve the level of performance set by government in the road investment strategy, and at what can reasonably be achieved in the next 12 months.

Feras Alshaker, director of planning and performance at the Office of Rail & Road, said: “National Highways has generally delivered well for road users, but in recent months we have become concerned that its performance has dipped in a number of areas and issues are recurring.

“We are opening an investigation now to help ORR and National Highways achieve a common understanding of what is causing the current dip in performance, and whether it is still reasonable for us to expect the levels of performance set out in the second Road Investment Strategy. We can then put in place any appropriate measures before the end of this road period and set the company up for success in the next, delivering for road users and taxpayers.”

Chris Todd, director of anti-roads campaign group Transport Action Network (TAN) said: “Putting National Highways into special measures is long overdue. Whether concerning safety or biodiversity, it is clear that its key performance indicators are not going to be met. Its culture of secrecy rather than honesty meant early opportunities to work collaboratively with stakeholders to address poor performance were missed and it is now refusing to release the full business cases of road schemes that it’s progressing.

“TAN has long believed National Highways to be in breach of its licence and is now seeking an urgent meeting with the roads monitor to contribute its national expertise and local intelligence into this important investigation.”


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