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As far as general upkeep and litter are concerned the ORR seem to take what they are told by HE at face value.

When HE produces a document, this is considered to be positive step regardless of how pointless it might be. 

They make no physical checks of their own. Are they just paperwork pushers costing us £2.5 million pa?

This post looks at what the Office of Rail & Road’s annual assessment of Highways England 2018/19 says about general upkeep and litter.

General upkeep

“Key message 2:  Highways England is meeting its target to keep the network in good condition”. (Page 7). This is supported by:

Pavement (i.e. road surface) Condition- 95.5% requires no further investigation for maintenance. Remains above target and improved from 95.2% in 2017-18”. (Bottom of table on page 9) and

“Geotechnical assets (i.e. verges and embankments): Highways England reports that 97.2% of its geotechnical assets do not require (and are not recommended for) remedial interventions at the end of 2018-19”. (Page 49)

However, both figures have been provided by HE’s contractors without any checking by HE.  The contractors are marking their own homework and the ORR are passing this onto us as evidence that the network is in good condition.

We are told there is “drainage condition data for 33% of the network” but not what that data reveals. (Page 49).

See my earlier post:  ORR’s Annual Assessment of HE 2018/19 – road surface verges and drains

In addition, we are told thatrevised inspection and maintenance requirements have been issued to Highways England’s contractors so that they focus on both customer satisfaction-related and safety-critical defects”.  (2.19 page 15).

But this is just a rehash of existing material. 


“Highways England has continued to take action to tackle litter on the strategic road network during 2018-19” (2.42 page19). How is it doing this?

“It refreshed its litter strategy in March 2019”. (2.42 page19). Nothing is said about what changes had been made to it and their significance. The statutory duty is still not spelled out.

“The company collected 20,000 bags of litter on the network during the year”. (2.42 page19). This is a typo, they meant 200,000 – the figure they always quote. The point is how long, on average, was this litter left lying around before it was picked up? HE’s statutory duty is to keep the highway free of litter not to collect it as and when their contractors feel inclined to do so.

HE have been “working with local authorities to undertake litter picking on A-roads to coincide with lane closures for other maintenance work”. They have been trying, and failing, to do this effectively for decades. See Cleansing of HE trunk roads.

Enhanced monitoring claim

In 2.18 the ORR state that: “Because Highways England is not currently meeting its key performance indicator target, we are applying an enhanced monitoring approach. A key part of this is more closely monitoring the company’s performance against its annual customer service action plan. We meet Highways England’s customer service directors each quarter to review progress and challenge”.

I have asked for details

All posts on the ORR

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Peter Silverman
10th October 2019


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