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I contend that these events only support my concerns about the viability of the new Asset Support Contract.

 

From: Peter Silverman
Sent: 02 September 2013 10:21
To: ‘philip.rutnam XXXXX
Cc: Andrew Gwynne MP ; Stephen.Hammond_MP XXXXk
Subject: Motorway litter – Highways Agency’s new Asset Support Contract

For the attention of Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport

 Dear Mr Rutnam,

I wrote to you on 11th October 2012 drawing your attention to my concerns over the Highways Agency’s new Asset Support Contract(ASC). I said:

“The combination of a specification which is both inadequate and virtually impossible to monitor in my opinion means that the new contract is inconsistent with the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the motorways in England are, so far as is practicable, kept clear of litter”.

“..please explain  how the Agency will be able to monitor whether or not the service,  in regard to the cleaning of non-paved areas,  is being delivered to specification?”. [The key question]

The non-paved areas are of course the verges where almost all of the litter and refuse is to be found.

On 3rd November 2012 the second ASC was implemented in Area 10 in the north west.

In your reply of 29th November 2012 you said the Agency had told you that a Maintenance Requirement Plan (MRP), produced by the provider not the Agency, sets out how the HA’s Asset Maintenance and Operational Requirements (AMOR ) will be delivered to achieve stipulated outcomes and that “Compliance, as monitored by the HA, is focussed on the MPR”.  You also said that “Should the provider fail to meet the Sweeping and Cleaning Requirements contractual performance measures are evoked which can carry significant financial and reputational ramifications”. This sounds as if there is a process in operation that would answer my key question. However, as I will explain, this is simply not the case.

I obtained a copy of the MRP for Area 10 dated 13th December 2012.  To access it and to see my comments on the sections dealing with “Sweeping and Cleaning” please go to Area 10 –Maintenance Requirements Plan.

In the context of cleansing it says the “Asset Manager will use all recommendations to develop a robust inspection programme”. Then on the very next page it says “.. there will not be an individual inspection associated with the Sweeping and Cleaning Maintenance Requirement ..”.

It is difficult to see how the MRP could be used as any sort of operational guide by the contractor never mind as a focus for compliance monitoring by the Agency. It simply does not commit the contractor to any defined course of action. I assume that the first version of the MRP which was in force when the contract went live on 3rd November 2012  was equally unhelpful.

So what, one might ask, happened when the new contractor took over? What inspection regime did he implement?  When defacement by litter was identified how did he respond?

Whatever inspections they may or may not have made what we do know is that the contractor failed to carry out any litter picking whatsoever in their first two  months in charge. In other words none of the verges alongside the motorways in and around the Manchester and Liverpool conurbations were cleaned in November and December 2012!!

Subsequently litter picking did commence but the contractor, Balfour Beatty Mott McDonald,  said they would only litter pick when other maintenance work was required on the same stretch of motorway. So accumulations of litter would be left until, say, the grass needed cutting or the gullies needed cleaning which might be 6 months or more – or even longer.

In March the Under-secretary of Transport, Stephen Hammond, admitted in answer to questions from Andrew Gwynne MP that motorways in Area 10 were below the required standard.

In April In April 3013 Marsha Gee had to write to the Secretary of State about the continuing “filth” at the Hale exit of the M56 in spite of her complaints to both the Agency and the contractor.

By July 172 bags worth of litter had been allowed to accumulate on the Denton island junction of the M67.

Balfour Beatty Mott McDonald was reported as saying they will do the minimum required under the terms of the contract to keep the network in a safe and serviceable condition.  As litter is rarely a safety hazard this is most concerning.

I suspect that no  “contractual performance measures” have been evoked against BBMM as the Agency have not responded to my questions on this subject.  

I contend that these events only support my concerns about the viability of the new Asset Support Contract.

Mike Penning MP, Under-secretary of State for Transport with special responsibility for the Highways Agency from 2010 -2012 said prior to taking up office: “I am very aware that there is legislation in place to deal with this problem. Frankly, however, having driven around the highways and byways of Britain, particularly our motorways, I know that it is not working”.

Mr Rutnam, it’s time to make the legislation workIt is your minister, not the Highways Agency, who has the duty under S89 (1) (b) of the Environmental Protection Act to ensure that the motorways in England are, so far as is practicable, kept clear of litter.  I would therefore once again urge you to take personal ownership of this issue and not rely on the Agency to review its own shortcomings.

To get an expert view the  Government Efficiency section of the Cabinet Office should be asked, as a matter of urgency,  to examine whether this contract is, or is not, fit for purpose.

I am copying this to Andrew Gwynne MP and Stephen Hammond MP, Mike Penning’s successor at the DfT.  The three of us had an encouraging preliminary meeting in July which was also attended by Highways Agency officials. It would be most helpful to have your further comments prior to the follow-up meeting promised for later this month.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 Kind regards,

 

Peter Silverman www.cleanhighways.co.uk

 

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