Government launches consultation on future of the Highways Agency

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has welcomed a consultation into restructuring the Highways Agency (HA) into a government-owned company along the lines of Network Rail by 2015.

Forming part of the government’s Action for Roads strategy, revealed in July this year, the reforms are intended to allow the HA to operate with “more certainty, commercial flexibility and greater independence from government” over day-to-day management of the Strategic Roads Network (SRN).
Jack Semple, director of policy at the RHA, told CM: “The consultation gives full weight to three key requirements that we have been stressing to government: to work closely with local authorities because road users see the strategic road network and local roads as one network; accountability; and formal engagement with road user organisations such as the RHA.”
The proposals will see management of the SRN pass to the new government-owned company, which would allow it more freedom to make decisions away from the constraints of central government.
Legislation will be brought forward to give the new company direct powers for carrying out its duties. However, the new company will be fully accountable to the Secretary of State for Transport, as well as a watchdog representing the interests of all road users.

A Roads Investment Strategy, set on a five-yearly cycle, would set out the performance standards the company is expected to reach, the funding it will receive and the investment programme it must deliver. The proposals state: “This will end the culture of strategic and financial uncertainty that has dogged the highways sector for decades.”
The new company will be publicly funded, with only around 5% of revenue coming from external sources, with a commitment by the government to not change existing laws on road charging to generate extra revenue. “We will not be making any changes to existing law around tolls and road charging, and we are not giving the company any powers to introduce its own tolls or other charges on road users,” the Department for Transport said in a statement.
The SRN is the biggest asset owned by the government, and although comprising only 2% of roads in England, carries more than one-third of all traffic, and two-thirds of all freight volumes. The network would cost an estimated £107.4bn to replace.
The consultation is open until 20 December 2013, with responses published early next year.

Pall-Ex increases Scottish network membership

Pall-Ex has recruited Renfrew-based Link Transport & Warehousing to cover some of the G and PA postcode areas within its pallet network.

Link Transport is working alongside Bullet Express and Mitchell Logisitcs covering the Glasgow area, and Bullet Express alone for the PA postcode.

Steven Reed, Pall-Ex’s network development director, said: “The arrival of Link Transport & Warehousing is a great addition to our Scottish membership.

“We took the decision to restructure our operations in Scotland, to build upon the already great levels of service we offer.”

Reed added that to stay competitive the network needed to ensure its coverage remained comprehensive.

Link Transport & Warehousing was founded in 2005 and is part of freight forwarder Air Sea Scotland. Ian Lynch, chairman of Link Transport & Warehousing, said: “Becoming a member of the Pall-Ex network is a logical step for both organisations.

“We each share a dedication to customer service, and our local facilities here at Renfrew will merge perfectly with the need to better serve our mutual clientele throughout the country.”