Roads Investment "strategy must be more realistic"

22/03/2017
Highways Reporters

The Department for Transport and Highways England are being told they need to take decisive action before the summer if they are to deliver optimal value from their Road Investment Strategy.

The National Audit Office says the first Road Investment Strategy, which covers the 5 years between April 2015 and March 2020, is an, "Important step towards better long-term planning of England’s strategic road network, but the speed with which it was put together has created risks to deliverability, affordability and value for money which could be carried forward into future road investment periods."

It says that in 2013 the Government committed £11.4 billion of capital funding to improving motorways and A-roads during road period 1 (2015-20), with £7.7 billion for 112 major enhancement projects and other projects designed to, for example, promote cycling, improve air quality and encourage economic growth. The remainder was allocated to the renewal of the existing network.

It adds that the Department planned the Strategy in 17 months, in order to publish it before the May 2015 General Election. As a result of this, it says, the Department, "Selected projects without knowing whether they would be the best value and 54 of the 112 projects are currently scheduled to start in 2019/20, which could cause significant disruption to motorists.

"The Department chose to set a capital programme which was forecast to exceed funding by £652 million," it continues. "This ‘over-programming’ had been standard practice in the Highways Agency, as it was expected that some schemes would be delayed or drop out of the portfolio as it was refined. By August 2016, the amount by which forecast capital costs exceeded available funding had increased to £841 million.  This is partly because the original investment plan did not take into account all the capital costs, such as post-project evaluations and IT investment, which will cost an estimated £409 million."

The NAO says, so far, Highways England has completed six projects on or ahead of schedule and has started construction on a further 19, with 16 planned to be on or ahead of schedule. Highways England forecasts that these projects will be delivered 5% over budget. Highways England met its efficiency savings target of £33 million for 2015-16, and expects to exceed its target for 2016-17, but it has to achieve 70 per cent of its savings target of £1.2 billion in the final two years of the strategy. Highways England is also facing challenges in recruitment of staff to cope with the increased workload. It plans to procure contracts for 57 projects in 2017, compared to six in 2016, but is 19% below its target headcount for procurement and commercial specialists who are in high demand. Highways England has been filling gaps with consultants and interim staff, who cost on average three times more than permanent employees.

It adds that Highways England is now reviewing the portfolio of enhancement projects to improve value for money, and has so far identified 16 projects which present a risk to value for money. Highways England and the Department are exploring a number of ways to manage this risk, including revising project design, cancelling projects or delaying projects to enable further assessment of benefits. Highways England has also developed options to bring forward the start dates of up to 10 projects and to delay up to 19 to reduce the number of projects due to start in 2019-20 to establish a smoother delivery profile and reduce disruption to the road network. While this may mean that some stakeholder expectations are not met, value for money depends on the Department and Highways England proceeding, in this and in future road periods, with a realistic and affordable plan.

The NAO has recommended that the Department and Highways England should agree an updated delivery plan for the remainder of the road period, including a clear statement setting out the impact of this updated plan on any work undertaken in the next road period. The Department should also re-evaluate its approach to oversight of Highways England, as the scale and complexity of Highways England’s investment portfolio increases.

Jim O'Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, told The Daily Telegraph, “We are confident we will deliver our capital programme without overspending our budget.  We will be publishing our delivery plan update in June, laying out the programme for the current year and again we expect to deliver all of the required work.”

A DfT spokesman told the paper, “We have made significant progress in managing our major roads more efficiently, and we are confident Highways England will deliver safe and reliable roads that deliver value for money for the taxpayer.”
Highways jobs

Road worker/Ground worker

City of York Council
£10.30 per hour
Have you successfully worked as part of a team? York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

HGV Relief Driver

North West Leicestershire District Council
Salary Band D, £21,589- £24,799 per year (pro rata to period of contract)
We are looking to recruit temporary HGV Relief Drivers with occasional loading duties to join NWLDC’s busy Waste Services Team. Coalville, Leicestershire
Recruiter: North West Leicestershire District Council

Waste Services Worker (Loader)

North West Leicestershire District Council
Band B, £18,795 - £19,171 per year (pro rata to the length of contract)
We are looking for Waste Operations Loaders to join our Waste Services Team to undertake waste collection and other related duties. Coalville, Leicestershire
Recruiter: North West Leicestershire District Council

Chargehand/Ganger

City of York Council
£11.09 per hour
Do you have experience of excavation, reinstatement and footway maintenance schemes? York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Sustainability & Resilience Manager (maternity cover)

Essex County Council
£51510.0 - £58752 per annum
This fixed-term contract will begin in August 2020 and is expected to last until October 2021 Interviews scheduled to be held Wednesday 10th June 2020 England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Civil Service Deputy Director Roles

GOV.UK
£70,000 - £117,800 & excellent rewards
We’re looking for significant experience of engaging at C-Suite and Board levels, excellent partnership-building and... England
Recruiter: GOV.UK

Engineer (Highways Scheme Design)

Medway Council
£31,888 - £37,646 per annum
The post-holder will be required to have highway engineering expertise in order to contribute to efficient and effective provision of... Medway City Estate, Rochester
Recruiter: Medway Council

Principal Flood Risk Officer

Lancashire County Council
£42,683-£46,566
We have an exciting opportunity for a Principal Floor Risk Officer Lancashire
Recruiter: Lancashire County Council

Resources and Waste Commercial and Contracts Manager

Northumberland County Council
£47,107 - £50,394
We are looking for a strategic, innovative and performance-focused leader to join us as Resources and Waste; Commercial and Contracts Manager. County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland
Recruiter: Northumberland County Council

SEN Travel Assessment Co-ordination Officer

London Borough of Bexley
£35,529 - £41,796
We are currently seeking an experienced officer administrator who will enjoy working as team and under their own initiative, with duties including... Bexleyheath, London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Bexley

Principal Planning Liaison Officer X3

Somerset County Council
£33,799 to £37,849 per annum
We have a number of fantastic opportunities in Somerset at various levels Taunton, Somerset
Recruiter: Somerset County Council

Principal Estate Roads Engineer

Somerset County Council
£33,799 to £37,849 per annum
We have a number of fantastic opportunities in Somerset at various levels Taunton, Somerset
Recruiter: Somerset County Council

Principal Travel Plan Officer

Somerset County Council
£33,799 to £37,849 per annum
We have a number of fantastic opportunities in Somerset at various levels Taunton, Somerset
Recruiter: Somerset County Council

Assistant Estate Roads Engineer x2

Somerset County Council
£25,295 to £28,785 per annum
We have 2 exciting opportunities for enthusiastic and committed individuals to join our Highways Development Management Team Taunton, Somerset
Recruiter: Somerset County Council

Design Services Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£50,430 - £55,503
We are a team of mixed experience and skills, proud to serve the people of Lincolnshire and have fun whilst doing so! Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Transport Planning Officer

North Yorkshire County Council
£29,636 to £32,029
We are looking for a Transport Planning Officer to join our Highways and Transportation service. Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Transforming Cities Fund - Project Delivery Manager

North Yorkshire County Council
£48,000 to £55,840
We are looking to appoint to the pivotal position of TCF Project Delivery Manager on a 3 year fixed-term contract, to... Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Engineer (Drainage)

Medway Council
£31,888 - £37,646 per annum
The post holder will be expected to work closely with our term maintenance contractor to successfully complete schemes. Medway City Estate, Rochester
Recruiter: Medway Council

Senior Street Lighting Engineer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£35,246 - £45,704 depending on skills, knowledge and experience
Are you looking for working arrangements that enhance your work-life balance? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Estate Maintenance Operative

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
Starting Salary is £21,210 depending on skills, knowledge and experience
You will be in daily contact with members of the public and will be expected to assist bereaved family members in a sympathetic manner. London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Crossing the inflection point

COVID-19 recovery plans revealed

Modelling a changing world

The great reallocation

View the latest issue

Latest Video