Highways Agency chief executive Peter Nutt describes how the role of the civil engineer within the Agency has evolved with new attitudes to transport. Historically, the role of the Highways Agency has been that of road- builder. To carry out the responsibilities of the role there has been a need to recruit civil engineers with an interest in road construction and associated specialisms, such as structures and geotechnics. In recent years there has been a change in the public's and the Government's attitude towards road building and this, in turn, has rightly led to a reassessment of the Agency's role and function.
There is now a much greater emphasis on managing the existing roads network to ensure it operates as effectively and efficiently as possible. This means that we need to give greater attention to the maintenance of the fabric of our roads and structures; we need to minimise congestion so there is a smoother flow of traffic. We also need to pay regard to the implications of the Government's stance on integrated transport, so that road users can be better informed and given greater choice of travel options.
I believe that this is an exciting time for the Agency, one in which we can play a major part in helping to shape a new transport culture.
Bringing this about will not be easy. While this new approach may not require some of the more traditional skills of the civil engineer, there is still a significant need for those civil engineers relishing the idea of innovative and creative thinking. The problems of tomorrow will need different solutions from those traditionally employed. I am sure that the Highways Agency can offer exciting opportunities to civil engineers with open and inquiring minds, civil engineers who enjoy solving problems by proposing new techniques and methods.