New roads watchdog to give drivers a voice

The government has outlined plans to introduce a new roadways watchdog to improve British roads for drivers.

Transport Focus

Named Transport Focus, the new organisation will be built on the same framework of Passenger Focus, a previous endeavour which mainly worked with rail customers.

However, the government says that the new body will use the views of British drivers to shape road policies in the future.

Director of the RAC Foundation, Professor Stephen Glaister, said: “This is a small but important change and gives all road users an official voice.

“The challenge for Transport Focus will be to adequately resource their operation to make sure they register the concerns of tens of millions of road travellers and then get those concerns heard at the top of government.”

Currently, roads are managed by the Highways Agency, which will be transformed into a government-owned company according to the plans.

This new organisation will be monitored by a brand new section of the Office of Rail Regulation called the Strategic Road Network Monitor.

The purpose of this new body will be to analyse the performance and efficiency of all other road bodies, to ensure they deliver what they promise and what road users want.

Long-term plan

These reforms fall under a long-term plan introduced by the government as part of the new Infrastructure Bill, which was introduced to Parliament earlier in the year.

Road Minister John Hayes said: “The reform of the Highways Agency and the introduction of a long-term vision for the road network is at the heart of this Government’s £24 billion commitment to improving our road network and ensuring long-term certainty in unlocking economic growth.

“These changes, along with the introduction of a new road monitor and watchdog, will make sure road users’ voices are heard and that decisions made are accountable to taxpayers, building on the good work that Office of Rail Regulator and Passenger Focus do now.”

It’s expected that the transformation of agencies into new bodies will help to make essential changes to the way that roads are managed and to ensure that drivers’ concerns are acted upon.

Chief executive for the Campaign for Better Transport group, Stephen Joseph, said: “We welcome plans to give road users more say on main roads and to have the new monitor assess value for money.”

According to the government, the plans will take effect from next April and will reportedly save up to £2.6 billion in the next decade by streamlining repair work.

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