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Keeping the Strategic Highways Network Running Smoothly

The introduction of the Infrastructure Act 2015, coupled with the creation of Highways England, changed the way that the English Strategic Road Network (SRN) is managed and run, with the aim of providing road users with the best possible quality of service, whilst supporting broader economic, environmental and safety objectives.

Highways England is responsible for all SRN motorways and major (trunk) roads in England, totalling around 4,300 miles. Whilst this represents only two per cent of all roads in England by length, these roads carry a third of all traffic by mileage, and two-thirds of all heavy goods traffic.

Funding for SRN projects is allocated through the Road Investment Strategy (RIS). Over the five-year period, 2015 - 2020, it is envisaged that the RIS will invest £15.2 billion in over 100 major schemes to enhance, renew and improve the network, and help prevent over 2500 deaths or serious injuries on the network.

In a recent interview with Highways magazine, Highways England Chief Executive, Jim O’Sullivan, confirmed that they are on track to meet RIS targets and will shortly commence the production of a route strategy for each of the strategic roads in England. The route strategies will be the foundation for much of the decision-making in regards to major new investments post-2020, and will aid the development of the DfT’s RIS2 fund which will cover the period from 2020–2025.

Some argue that the Strategic Road Network should be extended further. The Rees Jeffreys Fund recently published the findings from their 2016 report ‘A Major Road Network for England’. The study asserts that the Highways England managed network alone is not sufficient to keep the economy at full capacity. It identifies another 3,800 miles of such roads which are heavily trafficked, especially with commercial transport, and which provide essential connectivity by filling the gaps in the SRN.

Together with the existing SRN, these highways constitute an 8,000-mile Major Road Network (MRN), carrying 43% of England’s traffic on 4% of its roads. The report concludes that the bulk of these additional roads on the MRN, managed by 154 local highway authorities (LHAs), are significantly less well-funded overall than the SRN and constricted by annual budget-setting. It goes on to suggest that there could be leeway in the proposed National Road Fund for a potential surplus of £1.5bn p.a. to be allocated towards meeting the needs of local authority major roads.

Following hot on the heels of this report, the Autumn Statement released on 23 November announced the new Roads Funding Package consisting of £1.3 billion funding to help support road infrastructure projects. £1.1 billion will be targeted at the local road network and £220 million to relieve congestion on the Strategic Road Network.

The Roads Funding Package also confirms the introduction of The Roads Fund which will use Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) receipts in England for road improvements. This will mean that from 2020 the roads budget will increase substantially, based on England’s share of VED for 2020/21 being estimated at £5.7bn.

Regardless of how the funding from 2020 onwards is ultimately split between HE managed routes and LHA roads, a key point made by the authors of ‘A Major Road Network for England’ is that the focus should be on clear and consistent planning and funding, and an end goal of being “fit for purpose; fit for the user”. Clearview Intelligence is in agreement that consistency in planning, funding and delivery is key to ensuring economic growth, investment in technological advances, and better use of road network capacity - culminating in safer journeys for all road users. A major factor in managing the effective delivery of network capacity is accurate intelligence on road usage; informing decisions that keep operations running smoothly and minimising disruption to road users and businesses.

A significant chunk of the SRN is currently managed through DBFO (Design, Build, Finance, Operate) highways contracts, reporting to Highways England. DBFO schemes rely on accuracy and completeness of data for reporting and maintenance planning purposes. Clearview Intelligence is currently contracted to deliver long-term technology maintenance contracts, and/or monitor usage, on twelve of the HE DBFO schemes.

As testament to our reliability and consistency in delivery, we have recently been awarded two new 10-year contracts with Road Management Services Ltd (RMS) Traffic Measuring Equipment (TME) maintenance for DBFO (Area) 29 and DBFO (Area) 31. We have been managing TME on these DBFO routes for 20 years now, so we can demonstrate consistency, reliability and excellence in delivery, knowing that the data we collect for our clients enables them to accurately and confidently report back to Highways England.

At Clearview Intelligence we specialise in providing accurate, reliable and timely intelligence to our clients. Talk to us about how we can help you to keep the strategic and local road networks running smoothly.

Author: Shona W |Date Published: December 2016

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