Highways England’s regulator has warned of a difficult transition between the current five-year Road Investment Strategy (RIS) and its second instalment (2020-2025), which remains unpublished.
John Larkinson, interim chief executive at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), said that as well as holding the government-owned company to account for its delivery under the current RIS, ‘we are also switching our attention to RIS 2 and the transition into RIS 2’.
‘It’s fundamental that you need to have a clear baseline for the start of a new RIS period, so Highways England needs to have a delivery plan in place, against which it can be measured. We want to learn some of the lessons from RIS 1, for example how we measure efficiency – making sure we have an agreed view with Highways England on how efficiency is to be measured over time,' he said.
‘But one thing that I think it’s just is impossible to underestimate is the transition between RIS periods. Five years ago, Network Rail got the transition between control periods badly wrong.
‘It was not prepared for the start of the new control period it was moving into. It didn’t have its plans in place, it got off to a poor start and it found it a long way back from there. And then it hit further problems which led to a deferral of renewals.
‘We’re going to be doing a lot of work with Highways England, with government, on the preparations for the start of the next RIS period, to make sure the plans and the resources are in there to deliver right from the start.’
The RIS 2 document has not yet been published by the Department for Transport and will not now be released until after the 12 December election.
Highways England will then need to publish its business plan for the RIS 2 period.
Before the election was agreed Elliot Shaw, Highways England’s executive director of strategy and planning, told the Transport Select Committee: ‘We need a new RIS in place by the start of the next road period.'
‘The Infrastructure Act sets out that there should always be a RIS in place, so if we get to the point when a RIS has not been published, we will need to come to some agreement with the Government on our plans.’