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April 21 2016
Highways England has met concern from the Office of Rail and Road over its ability to deliver an effective road maintenance scheme in the East Midlands.
Regulators at the Office of Rail and Road have published their apprehension in Highways England’s supply chain capability. Central to this caution is the organisation’s capacity to source the skilled people needed to progress the Government’s Road Investment Strategy in this region by 2020-21, as the project creates a demand for qualified highways recruitment.
In its first review of Highways England’s supply chain, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) highlights the barriers facing Highways England in delivering the initiatives of the Road Investment Strategy – a Government-backed scheme that will see £15.2 billion invested in renewing, enhancing and improving the road network in the UK between 2015 and 2020.
One area of concern is Highways England’s ability to effectively manage road maintenance in the East Midlands Area 7, as it introduces plans to employ an in-house team to oversee this work. Switching from external single contracts, Highways England plans to develop capability internally, replacing the need to bring outside experts on board with the regional project.
The report warns that greater visibility of the supply chain is required by Highways England to ensure that associated companies are given adequate opportunity to invest in skills, especially where work is of a specialist nature.
Also revealed in the report, the ORR highlights concerns from suppliers and contractors as to whether Highways England can build the necessary management competence internally to deliver the Road Investment Strategy’s objectives in the timescale allocated.
In reviewing Highways England’s supply chain capability, the ORR commissioned Credo Business Consulting to investigate across various specialisms and all supplier and contractor tiers. Responding, one contractor said: “Highways England does not currently have the capacity and people to effectively manage programmes.”
The ORR has recommended that Highways England should provide evidence of its ability to source the expertise needed to manage elements of the Road Investment Strategy. It suggests examining the cost-effectiveness of its new in-house plans and the impact it’s had on relationships with supply chain partners in the East Midlands, before pursuing this model in other regions.
Acknowledging the points raised in the ORR’s review, Highways England has responded saying:
“We have already engaged with, and are utilising, industry experts to enhance our programme and portfolio capability over Road Investment Strategy 1. We are doing this through a structured and planned set of activities.
“Our plans are based on a capability journey over the Road Investment Strategy period but we still have work to do to develop the approach to measuring progress. As our internal plans develop we will work with our stakeholders to provide visibility on progress.”
Highways England will detail its findings in a Supply Chain Skills and Capability Plan due to be published in the summer.
While creating an internal source of expertise and potential permanent employment is admirable, in a sector where ensuring the workforce has the skills and knowledge to negotiate the safety conditions, time constraints and cost factors of any given project is vital - Highways England must ensure that its management staff are able to respond to changeable situations as they arise. Employing expertise when necessary is crucial to delivering improvements to the road network by 2020.
Image Credit: Oliver Mills (geograph.org)
To see the recruitment options in the highways sector for yourself, please visit the highways jobs page.