Highways Agency to adopt Network Rail ownership model

The Highways Agency is to be transformed into a publically-owned company along the lines of Network Rail, in a bid to boost its effectiveness and operational efficiency.

The move could potentially bring £600m of savings by 2020/21 if adopted along side a series proposals outlined today (16 July) in the Action for Roads command paper, the government has said.

Key to achieving this will be moving the Highways Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Transport, beyond the day to day influence of ministers, allowing it to devote its full efforts to running the strategic road network.

The government has also promised long-term funding certainty for the agency, running from 2015 to 2021 (initially), as the current annual funding arrangement can be stop-start due to political considerations, which  makes it harder to secure efficiencies from contractors.

In parallel, a Roads Investment Strategy setting out plans for construction and maintenance of the network to 2021 will be published, in a bid to move away from short-termism in regards planning.

Karen Dee, FTA director of policy, welcomed the announcement and said: “Moving forward it is vital to have a method in place which enables the industry to monitor the new company in its meeting performance - in order to create confidence.”

The move was first mooted in last month’s spending review, which saw £9.5bn pledged for upgrades for road and transport upgrades.

Additional funding of £500m for electric vehicles by 2020 has also been announced today.

EU reveals future tachograph changes

The final proposals to amend tachograph regulation (EC) NO 561/2006 and to repeal (EEC) 3821/85 have now reached the final stage in the legislative process and are ready for the European Commission to release it later this year, writes Tachodisc MD Karen Crispe.

In line with EU policy, these proposals have gone back and forth through various consultation stages, committees, EU Council and commissions over the last couple of years, but we now believe that this final proposal details what will be enforced in 2017-2018.  If there are any further changes before the final release, we expect them to only be minor text modifications.

Last November, Tachodisc published a White Paper, titled Change is on the Cards, to detail the proposed changes and this new ‘final’ EU document includes all the key points noted in the paper, with a few surprise additions.  

In summary, some of the main points relating to operators in the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 3821/85 on recording equipment in road transport and amending Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 of the European Parliament and the Council ("Tachograph") are:

  • An exemption for vehicles of less that 7.5 tons when the vehicle is used for carrying materials, equipment or machinery for the driver's use in the course of his work, and which are used only within a 100 km radius from the base on the condition that driving the vehicle does not constitute the driver's main activity. This extends the distance to which this exemption currently applies, and will mainly affect  building, glazing and scaffolding companies etc, where driving is not the primary business.
  • The Commission should consider the inclusion of weights sensors in heavy goods vehicles, and should assess the potential for weight sensors to contribute to an improved compliance of road transport legislation. This is new and perhaps is aimed at preventing unsafe loads, which are currently one of the biggest offences.
  • The use of tachographs connected to a GPS  system to record the position of the vehicle at certain points during the daily working period in order to support control officers during controls. This is new wording, which is very vague.
  • Remote communication between the tachograph and control authorities for roadside control purposes. As detailed in the White Paper, this will facilitate targeted roadside checks being  introduced, but this is only for basic compliance checks not to facilitate downloading of data.
  • Field tests of a tachograph that has not yet been type approved to be allowed to be tested in real life situations before it is widely introduced. This is welcome news as it will ensure new tachograph technology is more extensively tested before rolled-out onto new vehicles. 
  • Member States should ensure that selection of vehicles for inspection is carried out without discrimination on grounds of the nationality of the driver or of the country of registration or entry into service of the commercial vehicle. This forms part of the EU’s commitment to creating a harmonised system across member countries.
  • Fitters and workshops play an important part in the security of tachographs. It is therefore appropriate to lay down certain minimum requirements for their approval, reliability and audit. Moreover, Member States should take appropriate measures to ensure that conflicts of interest between workshops and transport undertakings are prevented. Nothing in this Regulation would prevent Member States from ensuring their approval, control and certification, as set out herein, through the procedures laid down in Regulation 765/2008, provided that the minimum criteria in Article 19.2 are fulfilled.

This is a positive move and the Department for Transport has worked hard to maintain the status quo.

For further information, download Tachodisc’s White Paper.