Highways Agency chief calls for £200m annual savings

THE Highways Agency could save £200m per year by taking “a much more businesslike” approach to managing the UK’s busiest roads, its chairman said in a new report yesterday.

In his independent review of the strategic road network for the department for transport, Alan Cook said the agency had become inefficient and ineffective through a cosy relationship with the government and needed a “culture change” that “puts users and taxpayers first”.

Cook warned that the agency had “an over-centralised working culture that is unnecessarily ‘risk-averse’” with “no continuous external pressure for efficiency”.

He said most infrastructure businesses in regulated sectors typically achieved average annual cost efficiencies of about three to six per cent per year, or between 15 and 35 per cent every five years. “The SRN is now the only major item of economic infrastructure in England still run by the civil service,” he said.

The UK’s strategic roads network of motorways and trunk roads makes up just three per cent of all roads but carries nearly a third of all traffic.

Congestion on these roads costs the economy an estimated £1.6bn a year.