Exclusive: Highways sector forms two tribes in battle to be heard

26/02/2020
Dominic Browne

The highways sector has been split in two after forming different groupings of major players both trying to create a collaborative central voice to speak to government.

Work to create a sector deal for highways, producing a detailed programme for Whitehall on the needs and commitments of the industry, has resulted in professional bodies coalescing around two main platforms.

One industry insider said it was 'disappointing' that two separate groups had formed, however they added the two groups could have useful dialogue with one more focused on delivery than the other. 

The Highways Sector Council

A raft of Tier One suppliers together with council directors body ADEPT, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transport (CIHT) and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport has created the Highways Sector Council.

The major companies involved are Ringway and Eurovia, Amey, Jacobs UK, FM Conway, AECOM, Skanska, Sir Robert McAlpine, Tarmac, Kier, Mott MacDonald, Balfour Beatty, Costain and Atkins.

The group has already written to Grant Shapps about its plans and submitted a draft summary document. This document, seen by Highways, outlined its ambitions, which include developing a 'programme, vision and delivery plans' by the end of May this year, to support its focus areas initially just for England.

The Council's areas of focus are:

  • Safety
  • People
  • Innovation and Connectivity
  • Environment
  • Models
  • Value

It then wants to 'develop key facts and baseline for highways' by April 2020 and by May this year have 'wider stakeholder and supply chain engagement to support the focus areas and delivery plans'.

In May, it also hopes to agree on a collaborative launch package and communications plan including the regions.

In a letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the Council said: 'The sector has formed the Highways Sector Council to ensure that we can come together as one consolidated unified voice in order to work in collaboration with the Department for Transport and local government.

'As part of this partnership approach, the Highway Sector Council would like to work with your officials to help co-develop a new vision and approach to improve our nation’s roads, including addressing the pothole crisis and the wider maintenance backlog.

'The Highways Sector Council will be uniquely placed to act as a vital enabler, along with other sectors such as Automotive, to assist Government achieve this fundamental shift in an efficient, effective and sustainable way.'

'We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge we propose, and it is hoped that you and your ministerial colleagues will endorse our aims and agree for your officials to work with the Highway Sector Council on achieving this ambitious programme.'

The Highways Industry Alliance

A second group of organisations has been invited to join the Highways Industry Alliance - more details will be provided in the March edition of Highways Magazine.

Among the invitees were The Association of Road Traffic Safety & Management (ARTSM), Institute of Highways Engineers (IHE) the British Parking Association (BPA), the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation (CIHT), Highways Electrical Association (HEA), Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA), Institute of Lighting Professionals (ILP), Intelligent Transport Society (ITS(UK)), International Signs Association (ISA-UK), Retroreflective Equipment Manufacturers Association (REMA), Road Safety Marking Association (RSMA) and Traffic Maintenance Contractors Association (TMCA).

On 31 March the Highways Industry Alliance will have its formal launch in London at the Institute of Highways Engineers.

The Terms of Reference having been ratified, it will then announce its first formal chair and operational plan, which is set to be confirmed in the April edition of Highways Magazine.

UPDATE: HTMA has approached Highways magazine to clarify that it will not be joining the Highways Industry Alliance.

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