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Highways Agency transformation part of ‘robust’ roads system, government says

The transformation of the Highways Agency into a government-owned company will be part of a “robust” roads system, the government has said, after publishing documents on its governance.

The papers published by Department for Transport summarise how its roads management reform and conversion of the Highways Agency into a Go-Co will operate.

New legislation to create the company was set out in the Infrastructure Bill this month and will create a legal framework for the company as well as the DfT’s new Roads Investment Strategy (RIS).

The government has said it will invest more than £24bn to upgrade England’s strategic roads network between 2010 and 2021. It will also spend £6bn in this parliament and £12bn in the next on roads maintenance.

The RIS was established to set out a long-term plan for the Strategic Roads Network and the new company was “absolutely not” about privatising England’s roads, the DfT said.

The first RIS will be published in autumn this year, with the new Go-Co company going live in spring 2015.

“We are turning the Highways Agency into a company that is 100 per cent owned by the government. The company will remain in the public sector and we are using legislation to guarantee this.”

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If the company fails to deliver on its targets, as a Go-Co the transport secretary will have the “normal” powers available as a shareholder to dismiss some or all of the company’s board.

“A hierarchy of other measures would also be available to the secretary of state,” the DfT said. This includes “reducing or suspending some of the company’s flexibility, fining the company and, in extreme cases, revoking the company’s appointment.”

The DfT said it was “serious” about delivering change and will ensure the company is resourced appropriately. The government will also approve board pay, pay policy and agree on high salary arrangements.

A watchdog and monitor will gather views and publish data on the performance of the company, “benchmarking costs and providing transparent and independent expert advice”.

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