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Highways Agency reassures cuts-hit road building industry

Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton has moved to reassure road builders after seeing £2.3bn of major projects shelved as a response to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Department for Transport (DfT) must cut spending by 15% over the next four years, and a number of highways schemes have already been cancelled or mothballed (News last week).

The Highways Agency is also facing scrutiny from a DfT review of its operation and structure. This work is already underway and will report in October next year.
Last week Dalton moved to reassure the supply chain over current workloads, but also stressed the need to cut costs in the future.

“The Highways Agency has a substantial budget for improvements to UK infrastructure,” Dalton told NCE.

“My recent engagement with colleagues in the Agency’s supply chain is to give them the best visibility I can, at this stage, of our forward workload and priorities.”

“Transport secretary Philip Hammond announced that he expects 14 major projects to enter construction during the next four years, with a further group developed with a view to construction starting from 2015.

“This is a significant commitment, and one that will enable the Agency to deliver further Managed Motorways schemes as well as some widening and key trunk road improvements,” he said.

“It is essential that we secure the best value for taxpayers”

Graham Dalton

The Agency said that delivery timetables and final costs for the schemes announced is work that it will now take forward with the supply chain.

“It is essential that we secure the best value for taxpayers’ money,” he said. “We have a very good procurement and contracting framework to help us do just this.”

Future schemes will depend on the success of this, with the DfT this week introducing a raft of new indicators on which the Agency’s performance can be judged.

From April the Agency will be required to publish monthly statistics on journey time reliability and annual statistics on the cost per mile of maintaining and operating the network. It will also make a biannual statement on the percentage of DfT’s appraised project spending that is assessed as good or very good value for money.

“Going forward, we will work with our supply chain to drive down costs and look at how greater efficiencies can be designed into the schemes, at the same time as ensuring value for money and that the roads programme maximises benefits for road users and the economy,” said Dalton.

“The challenge will then be to help us deliver the projects on time and to budget, making sure savings are achieved.”

Network Rail reform

Work to reform Network Rail will not begin until May 2011, once Sir Roy McNulty’s report into rail costs in the UK has been published in April.

Proposals on how Network Rail could be restructured will be published in November 2011.

The milestones were announced alongside business plans for each government department this week. The Department for Transport has a host of deadlines to develop High Speed 2, including publishing a proposed route for the first phase by December next year.


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