I announce to the House that under powers in section 1 of the Infrastructure Act 2015 I have formally appointed (through Appointment Order SI 2015/376) Highways England to be the strategic highways company with effect from 1 April 2015. This marks a significant forward step in how the English strategic road network is constructed and managed, with committed funding, clear lines of accountability, and transparency in how road infrastructure is delivered.
We have created a separate government arms-length body, accountable for what it does within a governance framework which makes clear what is expected from it. Government remains responsible for strategic roads and Ministers will continue to be accountable for ensuring that the network is managed responsibly, safeguarding value for public investment and meets the needs of road users and wider society, both today and for the future. We have put in place a robust system of governance that ensures we can effectively oversee management and delivery, and intervene to prevent or tackle any issues.
The Licence under which Highways England will operate sets out the Secretary of State’s statutory directions and guidance to Highways England. It makes clear, to both Highways England and the wider community of road users and stakeholders, what we expect Highways England to achieve and how they must behave in discharging their duties and in delivering our vision and plans for the network, set out in the Road Investment Strategy.
We expect the company to engage with road users and collaborate with other organisations to develop shared solutions. They must take a lead in promoting and improving the role and performance of roads in respect of broader communal responsibilities, such as safety, the aesthetics of design and the environment, as well as driving forward progress on technology and innovation.
As part of implementing the provisions under Part 1 of the Infrastructure Act 2015 I have also
· Laid the Road Investment Strategy (RIS) comprising three parts: Strategic Vision, Investment Plan and Performance Specification, published in December 2014 as an Act Paper.
· Published the licence which sets out statutory directions and guidance, to be formally issued to Highways England on its appointment, along with the framework document to be published shortly.
· Published statutory guidance to the Highways Monitor (part of which is jointly issued with HM Treasury), and published the Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretary of State and the Highways Monitor in support of the guidance. Both will be issued to the Monitor in line with Highways England’s appointment.
· Published the Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretary of State, Highways England and the Watchdog, Transport Focus.
Copies of these documents have been made available in the libraries of both Houses.