§ Lord Hacking
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have completed the review of the Highways Agency announced on 27 October 1998 (WA 210). [HL4076]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty)
We have now completed the review. We have concluded that the most effective way of delivering a more integrated transport system and a better service to road users will be for the Highways Agency to retain executive agency status.
We intend to build on what the agency has achieved in its first five years. The review established that the Highways Agency has in its first years of existence responded positively to major changes in roads policy with a shift from road construction to maintenance and operation of the network. It has promoted new procurement methods for trunk roads using private finance, reorganised the way that maintenance is delivered and achieved notable cost savings. The agency has now been asked to build on that sound basis to deliver further modernisation of procurement including long term maintenance contracts.
The agency has put much effort into becoming a more customer focused organisation. Improving the service delivered to customers has been central to the way that the agency has planned and carried out its activities. The agency will continue to build strong links with other transport operators.
The review stressed the need for meaningful and appropriate performance indicators to measure efficiency and effectiveness in the future. Work on these is under way. It also identified the need for greater clarity in specifying the role and responsibilities of the department, Ministers and the agency, which has been reflected in the new Framework Document.
The review identified one area which requires further consideration—whether there would be benefits from bringing some of the central department's and the agency's roads standards setting and advisory functions together in one organisation and where they should be located. This will be considered in the autumn.
The conclusions of the review are summarised in a report which is being published today. This, together with a more detailed report evaluating the agency's performance over the last five years, and a new Framework Document for the agency, is available in the Library of the House, and will be shortly on the Internet.