The government has today set out how a new ‘watchdog’ and ‘monitor’ that will help make England’s motorways and major roads run better will work.
Under government plans the Highways Agency will soon be transformed into a government-owned company responsible for over 4,300 miles of motorways and major roads – giving the agency more flexibility to manage the road network on a daily basis.
Two new bodies – one to monitor the performance of the road network and another to champion the needs of road users – will hold the new agency to account for road users, taxpayers and government.
The new road monitor will be run by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to ensure that how the network is managed is more transparent than ever before. This will include taking many of the tools used by economic regulators, including the power to issue fines, to make sure that the new highways company delivers what it has promised and honours the conditions of its licence.
User champion Passenger Focus, which represents bus, coach and tram passengers and has worked for rail passengers for more than 60 years, will now represent users of the strategic road network. This includes motorists and business users, as well as cyclists and walkers. This will involve major annual surveys, as well as research into road users’ top problems. To reflect this new remit, the organisation has announced it will change its name to Transport Focus, with its existing work carried out by ‘Transport Focus – passengers’, and its new work under ‘Transport Focus – road users’.
The reform of the Highways Agency and introduction of the government’s long term vision for our road network all form part of the Infrastructure Bill, which was introduced in Parliament earlier this year.
Changes also being introduced as amendments to the Bill include the power for the ORR to carry out independent enforcement activity if the highways company fails to deliver and new powers expanding the remit of Transport Focus. Both bodies will be awarded more funding and will expand their operations so their existing work will not be affected.
These amendments, taken together with the measures already in the Bill, will provide a strong framework for the management of our roads – strengthening accountability, driving efficiency and increasing transparency. This will create more certain conditions for investment, encouraging businesses to gear up for the Government’s ambitious plans for the future.
Road Minister John Hayes said:
“The reform of the Highways Agency and the introduction of a long term vision for the road network is at the heart of this government’s £24 billion commitment to improving our road network and ensuring long term certainty in unlocking economic growth.
“These changes along with the introduction of a new road monitor and watchdog, will make sure road users’ voices are heard and that decisions made are accountable to taxpayers, building on the good work that the Office of Rail Regulator and Passenger Focus do now.”
The reform of the Highways Agency and introduction of the government’s long term vision for our road network all form part of the Infrastructure Bill that was announced in Parliament earlier this year.
The government’s existing £30-50 billion funding commitment to improve our roads over the next 15 years will be underpinned by legislation and will give roads users a more efficient and effective network that will deliver a network that is fit for the 21st century and beyond.
The Infrastructure Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent by March 2015.
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