Highways asset management

In recent years the investment in highway infrastructure and its performance has been increasingly under the spotlight. The way local highway authorities manage their highway infrastructure has been reviewed in the light of continuing financial challenges and increasing public expectations.

Asset management has been widely accepted by central and local government as a means to deliver a more efficient and effective approach to management of the highway infrastructure assets through long term planning and life cycle analysis. Both our society and economy are underpinned by infrastructure assets including water supply, waste disposal, energy, telecommunications as well as transport. This infrastructure is vital to modern society and requires significant investment to develop and maintain. Such an approach enables more efficient and effective use of resources, while fulfilling legal obligations, delivering stakeholder needs and safeguarding the engineering integrity of the network.

The concept of highway asset management is becoming increasingly important for those responsible for managing highway networks. Asset management is not a new concept and most highway authorities are practicing elements of asset management already. However, the service wide application of asset management is a new concept.

In the highways context, where the asset is the highway itself, the aim is to provide a structured approach to road maintenance to enable highway authorities to operate, maintain and restore their ‘highway assets' to meet key performance requirements.

Looking after the highways network is, increasingly, a national priority given its fundamental role in the countries economy. To fulfil this potential, it needs to be adequately maintained.

Highway asset management strategy

Highway authorities in England are required by the Department for Transport (DfT) to demonstrate they are making the best use of highway assets through asset management strategy.

The Council’s highway asset management policy​ has been endorsed by the executive board and the Council’s highway asset management strategy has been endorsed by the executive member. It allows detailed information, on the assets held by the authority, to be provided at all corporate levels. This enables the efficiency and effectiveness of local highway maintenance to be measured against other local transport spending, and assist in crucial strategy and planning decisions.

Funding changes

In December 2014, the Secretary of State for Transport announced that £6 million will be made available between 2015/16 and 2020/21 for local highways maintenance capital funding. From this funding, £578 million has been set aside for an incentive fund scheme, to reward councils who demonstrate they are delivering value for money in carrying out cost effective improvements and the adoption of asset management principles.

Self-assessment questionnaire for the incentive fund

Each local highway authority in England (excluding London) will be invited to complete a self-assessment questionnaire, in order to secure the share of the incentive fund they will be eligible for in the forthcoming year.

Each authority will score themselves against 22 questions and place themselves into one of three bands on the basis of the available evidence. The Department for Transport may request supporting evidence from a local highway authority and may, via the Independent Audit Task Group undertake sample audits. It is the responsibility of the Section 151 officer at each local authority to ensure that they are satisfied that the evidence is sufficient for him/her to sign off the overall submission and total score.

The incentive funding awarded to each local highway authority will be based on their score in this questionnaire, and will be relative to the amount received through the needs-based funding formula.

In 2018/19, only authorities in band 3 will receive their full share of the £578 million, whilst authorities in band 2 will receive 70% of their share and those in band 1 will receive 10%.

Further information will be available once further details are released by the DfT.

The basis of the self-assessment questionnaire

The Highways maintenance efficiency programme (HMEP) has developed a selection of products and services that promote efficient and effective working practices. These resources are founded on the good practice that many authorities are already adopting. In producing this self-assessment questionnaire, an objective has been to build on this good work and to support authorities who are on the journey towards improving their working practices.

The questions are designed to enable authorities to assess their progress on the journey to the implementation of good practice, which will create an environment for effective and efficient delivery and maximize the return on capital funding.

Underpinning this are the needs of stakeholders and the communication of the importance of the highway service and the needs for well-managed highways. With the advent of the Challenge Fund, the HMEP and the best practice guidance from the Department for Transport (DfT) the working practices of the Council will evolve over the next year. The HMEP and DfT guidance advocates adoption and implementation of life cycle plans for all major infrastructure assets. Those highway authorities within England who have developed and implemented life cycle planning have reduced their maintenance backlog.

A revised code of practice for well-managed highways

At the direction of the Department for Transport the current Codes of Practice have been reviewed and amalgamated into one document, Well managed highway infrastructure. There have been some fundamental changes including the move to a risk based approach to the procedures which manage the highway infrastructure. The new Code wa s published electronically on 28 October 2016. Following a two year transition period the recommendations of the new code of Practice were adopted by the Council.