Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation: 75th anniversary
Good afternoon and thank you for inviting a transport minister to attend your luncheon to celebrate the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) midland’s branch 75th anniversary.
I am sorry that due to other commitments that I’m not able to join you in person but I hope this video speech allows me to participate.
As I hope you already know I’m Robert Goodwill and one of my key portfolio roles, as the new Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Transport, is local and strategic roads, including highways maintenance. I look forward to working with many of you as I get fully up to speed with my brief.
Now there are 2 important lessons I’ve learned since going into politics.
The first is that the words “I wish the minister had gone on longer” are rarely on the lips of an audience at the end of a speech.
And the second is that you don’t win applause or for that matter any votes by keeping people from their well-earned lunch.
So, with both of those lessons in mind, I promise to keep this video speech relatively brief.
However it would be remiss for me not to say a few words about the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation bearing in mind its distinguished history.
The CIHT, originally founded as the Institute of Highways Engineers, has grown steadily since its formation in 1930 under the leadership of Captain Frobisher.
Since those early days, membership has increased significantly and it now has, including the midlands branch, over 19 branches in Great Britain and Ireland, as well as overseas in Malaysia and Hong Kong.
This is testament to the fact that the institution is a respected body on all aspects of the design, construction, operation, management and maintenance of highways and transport infrastructure.
I know my department values the relationship that it is has with the CIHT and I hope this excellent partnership continues for years to come.
Now I recognise that the midland branch of the Institution is very active. I was interested to learn about the annual CIHT Midland Branch Symposium that took place at Nottingham Trent University in March this year.
The main theme of the symposium was ‘Highways maintenance in volatile times’ and the presentations explored innovative ways that highway finances can be used to maximum effect, both nationally and at a local level.
I also watched the BBC TV news report on potholes in which CIHT midland branch were represented.
Local highways maintenance is a key issue for all, and a well maintained highway network is vital to the economic prosperity and growth of local communities – a key government priority.
Local roads form approximately ninety-eight per cent of our national highway network and highway authorities have a duty under the Highways Act 1980 to ensure they are well maintained.
As I am sure you would agree the delivery of highway services to customers is one of the core objectives of highway maintenance.
The highway network is very diverse and it is right that it aims to meet the needs of all its users, including pedestrians, cyclists, hauliers, businesses, motorists, motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users.
The public – that is highway users and local residents - are the customers of the service and it is right that they should be consulted on the service standards and maintenance priorities through appropriate local processes.
When defects are reported, the public expect repairs in a timely manner, or to at least have an understanding as to why immediate action has not been taken, or why in certain cases why it is not appropriate to do so at that time.
Providing good information to the public on what they can expect in terms of reporting on highways maintenance is vital to ensure clarity and transparency of local highway policies. If this information is disseminated well, it should also help reduce the volume of public requests, defect reports being received from multiple sources, compensation claims and media interest in this activity, thus allowing councils to focus on other priorities.
This government is providing the funding and tools to help ensure that local highway authorities can meet their statutory duties.
Overall we are providing 3.4 billion pounds to local highway authorities from 2011 to 2015 for highways maintenance, significantly more than in the previous 4 year period.
The importance this government attaches to highways and maintenance was clearly set out in June as part of the 2013 Spending Round announcement.
We have committed just under £6 billion capital funding to local highway authorities for maintenance over the 6 year period from 2015/16 to 2020/21 – equating to around £976 million per year.
It is also right that the department expects local highway authorities to continue achieving the best value for money for the taxpayer and devote renewed energy and commitment to delivering well maintained local roads that are fit for purpose.
That is why the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme, the HMEP, was set up in 2011 which the Department for Transport is sponsoring. I know Steve Kent who is with you today (15 November 2013), as president of ADEPT, is one of the lynchpins in the work that HMEP is taking forward.
At its core, the programme has three foundation stones - by the sector for the sector, practical, adaptable approaches and with a focus on results.
I am pleased that we are now seeing the results starting to flow through from the programme. It is providing the guidance and support that those involved with highways maintenance has said would help them.
Sue Percy as Chief Executive of CIHT now attends the programme board, and I am grateful for CIHT representatives who are actively involved in developing many of the products that have been or are being developed.
One of the key reports delivered in 2012 was the ‘Pothole review’ report. The three main themes arising from the review were firstly, prevention is better than cure – intervening at the right time will reduce the amount of potholes forming and prevent bigger problems later.
Secondly, getting things right first time – do it once and get it right, rather than face continuous bills. Guidance, knowledge and good workmanship are the ways to achieve this.
Thirdly, clarity for the public – as I said earlier local highway authorities need to communicate to their public what is being done, how it is being done, and most importantly that it is being done or has been completed.
A follow-up ‘Potholes review’ report was published in July this year and is available on the HMEP website. I am pleased to see that the recommendations from the review are now being taken forward by both local authorities and their providers.
I hope that the CIHT and its members continue with the assistance being provided as the programme continues its vital work to help produce practical guidance. As well as its work in identifying opportunities for efficiency savings and changes to increase the effectiveness of the highways maintenance sector.
Okay, I think it’s time I made good on my promise to keep things short.
But, before I finish, I just wanted to pay a personal tribute to CIHT and its members, particularly those in the midland branch.
The work you do matters, your experience and expertise are valued and the difference you make is recognised and appreciated by this minister and this government.
So thank you and congratulations on your 75th anniversary – enjoy your lunch.