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A404 LitterThe Highways Agency’s Strategic Road Network can be seen on this map. It consists of the motorways and  All Purpose Trunk Roads (APTRs) in England.

Responsibility for removing litter from the verges lies with the Highways Agency for all of the motorways but only for some of the trunk roads.

For for most trunk roads, while the Agency’s contractor cuts the grass, repairs the fences and fills the pot holes the local authority has to do the litter picking.

The picture on the left is of one such road, the section of the A404 connecting the M40 and the M4 taken in 2010.



This division of responsibility presents a number of difficulties:

If there is no pavement or other safe access permission has to be obtained from the Highways Agency to carry out lane closures..

To avoid congestion and achieve its Journey Time Reliability targets the Agency often requires such closures to take place at night necessitating  over-time payments.

Local Authority staff are often not  trained to deal with the operational challenges of safe working on high speed roads at night.

They may have to hire in specialist equipment such as crash cushions and signage.

Some councils seem to be unaware of their responsibility to clean ATPRs

Selby District Council have said they only clean inaccessible section so the A64 when the Highways Agency have closed them for maintenance work.

Local residents do not see these roads as as being part of their local environment. The pressure on councils is therefore to concentrate their limited cleansing budgets on town centres and residential roads. It is not surprising that the cleansing of these roads is often neglected.

In their report Roadside Litter Research Strategy prepared for the Department For Transport in 2009, Atkins looked at the case for transferring the responsibility for their cleaning  to the Highways Agency making one party responsible for all maintenance functions.

They  concluded that it would lead to efficiency  improvements which in turn would benefit congestion, road safety and the environment.

In March 2014 I wrote to Robert Goodwill, then Under-secretary of State with responsibility for the Highways Agency making the case for the transfer of responsibility.

The Local Government Association made the same recommendations in their response to the DfT’s consultation on transforming the Agency into a publicly owned company and have now repeated it in section 5.2 of their recent submission to the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into litter.

I have written to Philip Rutnam, the Permanent Secretary at the DfT asking him what he current position is on this proposal.


Peter Silverman
14th Novemeber 2014



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