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Highways England boss attacks 'countless' reviews

The boss of Highways England has slammed the number of reviews the organisation has been subject to, suggesting they often tell the organisation what it already knows.

“My personal frustration is the number of times we have been reviewed,” said chief executive Jim O’Sullivan, speaking at the Highways UK event in Birmingham. 

“It seems we get reviewed for our own sake and it seems whenever another sector – for example, rail – has a problem, we get reviewed again.”

He added that the reviews often came to the same conclusion and were a drain on the organisation’s resources.

Since Highways England was created in April 2015 the organisation has undergone several reviews from various government bodies and the regulator, the Office of Road and Rail.

In March a  review by the National Audit Office found that the Roads Investment Strategy included at least 16 projects that posed a risk to value for money. 

This was followed in July by a review from the ORR that concluded that Highways England was performing well against the majority of its performance targets but needed to improve the way it scheduled work across the RIS programme.

“We’ve had countless ORR teams in; we’ve had the National Audit Office, the Infrastructure Projects Authority and several other organisations in to review us.

“Each one has said, ‘There is work to do’, which we know, ‘But they are making a good fist of it’, which we also know.

“It has an impact on resource with us as a growing and changing business [because we’re] having to take staff off their day job to support the review teams. It is a challenge.

“The irony is that if you hold enough reviews you actually create the problem that you set out to [analyse] in the first place.”

Last month Highways England revealed revisions to its £15bn Road Investment Strategy (RIS), with six schemes (see box) initially scheduled to start before 2020 paused for further review and consideration as part of future RIS plans.

Commenting on why these projects had been put under review, Mr O’Sullivan said that they had not passed Highways England’s cost benefit threshold of creating more than £2.50 for the economy for every £1 invested in the project. The projects will now be assessed by the government, which will decide on whether to proceed with them.

Six road schemes paused for further review 

  • A1 & A19 technology enhancements
  • M11 junctions 8 to 14 technology upgrade
  • A12 whole-route technology upgrade
  • M53 junctions 5-11 smart motorway
  • A14 junction 10a
  • M62/ M606 chain bar

 

Readers' comments (1)

  • if you want to avoid reviews, get your act together.
    Your complaints process is ineffectual
    Your staff do not know what your contracts charge
    You hide information helping contractors to overcharge
    I note you are having to investigate Area 9
    I have read http://www.englandhighways.co.uk/kier-costing-allegations/ and the problems are clearly widespread and well known

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