Office of Rail Regulation to take on roads role

28 Oct 14

Roads minister John Hayes today confirmed that the Office of Rail Regulation will be given an expanded remit to hold the Highways Agency to account once the roads quango is given greater freedom from government.

The Department for Transport first announced last July that it planned to turn the agency into a government-owned company, which would be given long-term funding deals from next April under contracts agreed with ministers. The reforms are intended to save £2.6bn over ten years by locking in funding for road repairs and giving the agency, which is responsible for maintaining over 4,300 miles of motorways and trunk roads, more flexibility.

Hayes today said a new roads monitor would be established by the ORR to apply a similar form of regulation to the road network. If the Highways Agency fails to honour the licence conditions that form part of its funding deal, the watchdog will have the power to take enforcement action, including issuing fines.

In addition, Passenger Focus, which currently represents bus, coach and train passengers, will be expanded to reflect the views of road network users.

The body, which will be renamed Transport Focus, will undertake annual satisfaction surveys of motorists, cyclists and walkers, as well as research into road users’ top problems.

Setting out the changes, which will be implemented through the government’s Infrastructure Bill, Hayes said: ‘The reform of the Highways Agency and the introduction of a long-term vision for the road network is at the heart of this government’s £24bn commitment to improving our road network and ensuring long term certainty in unlocking economic growth.

‘These changes along with the introduction of a new road monitor and watchdog, will make sure road users’ voices are heard and that decisions made are accountable to taxpayers, building on the good work that the Office of Rail Regulator and Passenger Focus do now.’

ORR chief executive Richard Price said the watchdog would work closely with key stakeholders to develop the cost, efficiency and performance monitoring function for England's strategic roads network.

He added: ‘ORR has a good track record and our work in rail is helping to deliver billions of pounds of efficiencies, better performance and improve the openness and public understanding of the industry.

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