ORR lets Highways England off the hook on safety pledge

31/07/2020
Dominic Browne and Chris Ames

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has said no action will be taken against Highways England despite the Government-owned company failing to meet a key safety commitment.

Highways England had pledged to ensure that the majority of those roads with a 1 and 2 iRAP/EuroRap safety rating would be improved to 3 stars over the first road investment strategy (RIS 1) period covering 2015-2020.

The commitment was made in the first Highways England delivery plan for the period but was quietly downplayed or dropped, and not mentioned in later delivery plans.

The roads authority admitted to Highways last year that it was struggling to meet the pledge.

Now Highways can reveal that the ORR had no intention of holding Highways England to account over the target, as it had decided behind the scenes the commitment was 'undeliverable'.

Based on an understanding of how ORR monitors Highways England this conclusion was almost certainly arrived at between the parties, rather than ORR deciding on its own.

An ORR spokesman said: 'In line with our duties as set out in the Infrastructure Act, we take a proportionate and targeted approach to monitoring Highways England. This means that we do not investigate every area of Highways England’s activities in detail.

'In the case of how it prioritises safety investments relating to the star rating of the network, it became clear in Road Period 1 that the commitment to increase the majority of 1 and 2 star roads was undeliverable. Part of the point of our monitoring is to ensure that targets are realistic.

'We’re clear that Highways England could be doing more and we will be monitoring the company to see that it does this in Road Period 2. We will report on the progress it makes in this area during RP2.'

The news comes after the regulator was forced to backtrack on claims that Highways England had ‘demonstrated that it is applying an evidence-based approach’ to improving safety.

ORR effectively admitted it had taken Highways England at its word over the assertion and conceded it had not 'demonstrated' this but merely 'stated' it.

In ORR's annual assessment of Highways England this year it gave a review of its performance over RIS 1 (2015-2020). It said: 'Highways England has not met its commitment to improve the majority of 1-star and 2-star roads to 3-star or more by 2020. In response to this, the company has explained to ORR that it takes account of both the star rating, and statistical risk of death or serious injury, of a road when prioritising safety interventions.

'We recognise that targeting its finite resources in this way can help the company achieve a greater reduction in casualties than if it focused on improving star ratings alone.'

ORR has not given an explanation as to how it came to the conclusion the target was 'undeliverable' or what trade-offs would have been necessary to make it happen.

Highways is still awaiting a response to these questions.

ORR can levy fines of up to £25m against Highways England.

In its enforcement policy, ORR states a serious contravention might involve 'significant responsibility on Highways England’s part and continuing failure by Highways England to adequately address and put in place action plans to remedy the issue'.

'The contravention may form part of a wider sustained, systemic or persistent failure, and there may be the potential for further similar harm to be repeated if the problems are not addressed.'

At a 'serious' contravention level, ORR would normally impose a fine of up to £2.5m.

A very serious contravention could result in a fine of up to £25m and might involve 'significant harm, or the risk of significant harm, being caused to a wide range of third parties and/or greater culpability on the part of the Highways England, for example, where Highways England was intentionally misleading'.

A recent report from the Road Safety Foundation concluded that both the company’s target of a 40% cut in killed and seriously injured (KSI) casualties by the end of 2020 and the long-term goal of no one being killed or injured on the strategic road network (SRN) by 2040 ‘are unlikely to be met by current activity’.

Highways jobs

Team Leader - Highways

Milton Keynes Council
£50,941 - £54,228
Milton Keynes is a place of opportunity. Milton Keynes
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Highways Traffic Development Engineer

Milton Keynes Council
£34,788 - £38,813
Milton Keynes is a place of opportunity. Milton Keynes
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Assistant Contracts Engineer

Milton Keynes Council
£34,788 - £38,813
We are looking for an Assistants Contracts Engineer to be a key senior member of our Contracts Team managing... Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Team Leader - Streetworks

Milton Keynes Council
£39,782 - £43,662
We are looking for a Team Leader to lead our Streetworks Team. Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Traffic Project Officer

City of York Council
£26,875 to £29,783 per annum
City of York Council have a great opportunity for a Projects Officer to join our busy Traffic Team. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Traffic Management Leader

City of York Council
£35,500 to £40,710 per annum
City of York Council have an exciting opportunity for an experienced transport professional to lead our Traffic Team. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Senior Technician (Structures)

Milton Keynes Council
£29,636 - £33,779
With several future projects coming up this is an exciting time for an experienced Senior Technician to join our team.  Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Senior Engineer - Development Management

Milton Keynes Council
£44,632 - £49,298
We are looking for a Senior Engineer to work within our Development Management Team. Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Principal Transport Officer (Policy)

St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council
£38,813 To £40,760 per annum
This is an exciting opportunity for an energetic and motivated individual to drive forward transport policy to... St Helens, Merseyside
Recruiter: St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council

Road Safety Officer (Education and engagement)

Milton Keynes Council
£29,636 - £33,799
We are looking a Road Safety Officer to deliver our education and engagement programme across Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Road Safety Engineer

Milton Keynes Council
£34,788 - £38,813
We are looking for an experience Road Safety professional to join our team to process and analyse collision and casualty data and to... Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Development Management Engineer

Warwickshire County Council
£37,849 - £39,782 per annum
The successful applicant for this post will be capable of taking the lead on work within... Warwick, Warwickshire
Recruiter: Warwickshire County Council

Project Officers

Buckinghamshire Council
£29121 - £38881 per annum
OverviewCareer graded posts 5-7£29,121 - £38,881 per annumThis is your chance to make a lasting impact on our county. From developing the connected tr England, Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury
Recruiter: Buckinghamshire Council

Permit Coordinator

Milton Keynes Council
£29,636 - £33,799
We are looking for a Permit Coordinator to work within our Streetworks Team. Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Highways Liaison Officer

Milton Keynes Council
£29,636 - £33,799
We are looking for a Highways Liaison Officer to join our Communications and Liaison Team. Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

Clerk of Works

Milton Keynes Council
£29,636 - £33,779
We are looking for a Clerk of Works to join our expanding team, supporting the Senior Engineers to... Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

CCTV Control Room Supervisor

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£24, 313 - £28, 785 pro rata
We are looking to recruit a supervisor to become part of the management team for our highly successful CCTV Control Room. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Chair of the Board of Directors - Norwich City Services

Norwich City Council
£10,000 per annum
Join Norwich City Services Ltd and transform the way we look after our city and our people. Norwich, Norfolk
Recruiter: Norwich City Council

Team Leader

Buckinghamshire Council
Negotiable
OverviewThis is your chance to make a lasting impact on our county. From developing the connected transport networks of the future and driving sustain England, Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury
Recruiter: Buckinghamshire Council

Commercial Vehicle Technician

Chelmsford City Council
£30,000 per annum
We are seeking a fully trained HGV technician to work as part of the team who maintain the Council's fleet to the highest standards.  Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

 

ADEPT: Past and present

Highways England: Present and future

Mott MacDonald: Urban realm of the future

View the latest issue

Latest Video