Plans to turn the Highways Agency into a government-owned company could save £2.6bn over the next 10 years whilst benefiting motorists with a more effective road network and a greater say in how their roads operate. So says the Department for Transport as it launches a consultation on the reforms.
The DfT says that the proposed changes, which form the next steps in the ‘Action for Roads’ command paper that was published earlier this year, would mean that new company will have a lot more freedom in day-to-day operational decisions, but will remain fully accountable to the Secretary of State, Parliament and, more importantly, to motorists. The plans also reform for the establishment of a new watchdog that will be set up to better reflect the views of motorists. This will encourage greater transparency of the Agency and its performance.
The reforms to the Highways Agency are underpinned by legislation so future governments can not walk away from this commitment.
Roads Minister Robert Goodwill said: ‘This government has committed to the biggest ever investment in our road network worth £50bn over the next 15 years, but we need to make sure it is spent wisely. Efficiency savings are there to be made, but to secure these means changing how our motorways and trunk roads are managed and maintained.
‘Transforming the Highways Agency into a government-owned company means long-term savings for the taxpayer, and making sure our roads are fit for the 21st century – supporting jobs and growth across the economy.
‘I also want motorists to have a greater say in how their roads are run and that is why I have proposed an independent watchdog – free from government – is set up to make sure the Highways Agency is delivering the wants, needs and expectations of motorists.’
The DfT has now launched a consultation asking for the public’s views on the proposed structure and accountability of the new government-owned company, along with input on how the new watchdog, and a separate new organisation that will monitor the performance of the Agency, should be run.
The consultation closes on Friday 20th December 2013 with outcomes reported by spring 2014.
Next year, the DfT will set out the delivery expectations of the new government-owned company up to 2021