Nick Harris to face Transport Committee over road upgrades, smart motorways and safety

National Highways CEO Nick Harris will be questioned by the cross-party Commons Transport Committee tomorrow (24 January), which will ask for updates on findings of its 2023 report on the government-owned company’s investments in maintaining and upgrading the network.

The report concluded company’s five-year Road Investment Strategies (RIS) were over budget and delayed “due to planning an overly ambitious portfolio of works, and failures in assessing risks from cost pressures and legal challenges to projects”.

MPs will question Mr Harris on lessons that have been learnt, and whether the company is prioritising maintenance over new infrastructure in its approach to planning RIS3, which will run from 2025.

The Committee will also examine the company’s efforts to improve safety on Smart Motorways. In a briefing note, they say there are concerns that the rate of road deaths and serious injuries has increased on three out of five all-lane running motorways that been in place for five years. MPs will also ask about attempts to improve stopped-vehicle-detection rates which are crucial to preventing collisions.

There will be questions about the target of reducing the number of serious injuries resulting from accidents by December 2025 compared to the average number of incidents between 2005-09.

The session will also hear from Elliot Shaw, Chief Customer and Strategy Officer at National Highways and the company’s Executive Director for Operations, Duncan Smith.

It will then hear from Guy Opperman MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Roads and Local Transport.

The Committee will ask about DfT’s work to improve service stations for lorry drivers, after long-term concerns that the UK’s haulage workforce experiences recruitment and retention problems due to the poor quality of facilities on the network, and its impacts on drivers’ welfare. The Department allocated an initial £8m to service station operators last year, following a bidding process for a total of £52.5 million of funds for improvements to driver facilities.

There will also be questions about efforts to improve service station connections to the National Grid to enable the rollout of EV charging, and NH’s 2021 strategy to improve its use of technology and data for surveying the quality of roads, tracking incidents and monitoring congestion.

(Picture – Highways News)

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