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Highways Agency turns off the road

THE HIGHWAYS Agency has made a public split from new roads building in a bid to re-brand itself a 'promoter of integrated transport'. The change of direction could spell job losses for civil engineers.

HA chief executive Lawrie Haynes this week told a forum of transport bosses and government officials: 'We are thinking the unthinkable and coming up with positive ideas which may run counter to earlier thinking.' He added: 'We want to play a full part in meeting the transport challenge by encouraging people to use means of transport other than the car.'

Roads minister Baroness Hayman welcomed the HA's new image, calling it 'an important occasion marking a new approach.' She said: 'It reflects a change of thinking which I believe is mirrored in society. We have a responsibility to make the best use of the network.'

The HA had been searching for a new role since the government announced the roads review last June. In a leaked internal memorandum Haynes suggested then that the end of the Highways Agency as a 'road building organisation' was in sight (NCE 26 June 1997).

The change in thinking looks set to cause a marked shift in the skill base within the HA and could mean job losses for civil engineers. An HA spokesman said: 'We are going to need to develop new skills but we will also need the old ones. At the moment it is not exactly clear in what proportions.'

Matthew Jones

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