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Green light for Highways Agency reform

  • 30 April 2014
  • By Chris Druce

The Highways Agency’s (HA) transformation into a government-owned company along the lines of Network Rail has taken another step closer.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has approved a series of reforms that should see the HA transformed within a year.

The government has claimed that the transformation will be a better deal for taxpayers, with savings of at least £2.6bn during the next ten years. This is based on the assumption that the new HA, freed from politically tied, short-term funding, will be able to think long-term and extract better value from contractors by offering them longer-term deals.

The government claims changing the ownership structure of the HA, which manages the strategic road network in England and Wales, will also, paradoxically, make it more accountable to parliament and road users.

McLoughlin said: “The reformed Highways Agency will be more transparent and more accountable, driving the smooth delivery of projects. These reforms will not only make the Highways Agency more efficient, but will also mean greater funding certainty for the construction sector.”

The government’s assertions about the reformed HA have, however, been challenged by the Transport Committee. While welcoming the adoption of longer-term funding in March, committee chairman Louise Ellman stated she had doubts about the new ownership model’s ability to boost operation effectiveness and to make savings of the magnitude suggested.

The Department for Transport is due to publish a long-term Roads Investment Strategy later this year to complement the new HA structure.


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