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Highways Agency shifts its sights

Director of network and customer services Peter Nutt explains how privatisation fits road plans

AS HIGHWAYS Agency director of network and customer services, civil engineer Peter Nutt is the focal point of the Government's drive to make the Agency more responsive to the needs of the road users.

'I act as owner for the road network and as internal client for all our projects and I am responsible for liaison with external agencies and outside road users.

'As our trunk roads carry one third of all the cars and half the heavy goods vehicles in the country we have a lot of customers. Delivering an open service is a large manpower issue,' he says.

The Government wants the Agency to become a network operator and maintainer instead of major road builder. This means that the Agency is looking to reinforce its organisation to manage the transport planning, telematics, traffic management and customer liaison roles.

On the surface this could be a problem. 'In April 2000 the Agency will be transferring a proportion of its staff and the four inner M25 super agencies to Transport for London,' Nutt says.

There is to be no big recruitment drive however. Detrunking means that 40% of the Agency's current roads will be handed over to local authorities.

'That means we will have a more substantive role on a reduced network,' Nutt says. And staff remaining after the London move can take up the roles they are most suited for within the Agency's wider brief.

'I think the new Agency is much more attractive,' he says. 'We have variety, a secure future now we have been given a clear role by John Prescott. And we are helping make sure our road network supports integrated transport policies.

'Government has given us a clear picture of the increased investment it wants to see and a firm commitment to deliver 37 schemes over seven years which is something we have never had before (News last week). It will allow us to make much better contracting deals because we can guarantee workload.'

Nutt will speak at NCE's Partnership Solutions for Integrated Transport conference in London on 28 January, held in conjunction with the Local Government Association and Coach & Bus Week magazine. Details on page 13.

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