Well-managed highway infastructure - a new approach to highway maintenance

Today sees the launch of ‘Well-managed Highway Infrastructure’, the production of which has been overseen by the UK Roads Liaison Group.

Summary

After a number of years in the making, today sees the launch of ‘Well-managed Highway Infrastructure’, the production of which has been overseen by the UK Roads Liaison Group. The full code is accessible here.  The UKRLG website also contains useful links to the background to the review and also the Highway Infrastructure Asset Management Guidance that the new code is to be read in conjunction with.

Key points

Previous guidance

The code replaces ‘Well-maintained Highways’, ‘Management of Highway Structures’ and ‘Well-lit Highways’. 

Application

The code is intended to apply throughout the UK. Highway authorities have a period of two years from the date of publication of the code to implement the new guidance. Previous codes (and existing practices) may apply in the interim for those authorities that need more time to apply the new guidance. 

Key theme

The code promotes the adoption of an integrated asset management approach to the maintenance of highway infrastructure that is based on the establishment of local levels of service through risk-based assessment.

What is intended by the risk-based approach?

The intention is for highway authorities to develop their own levels of service based on local needs, priorities and affordability.

Comment

The move away from prescribed criteria for highway maintenance has been seen in some quarters as a cause for concern in the context of defending claims. However, the existing codes have only ever been evidence of good practice rather than a mandatory standard; highway authorities have always been entitled to exercise their own judgment and this is the ethos of the new code. Ideally highway authorities will implement the new code through a proactive, risk-based approach that includes proactive assessment of their highway network based on condition, highway usage and historical accident and complaints data. Collaboration will also be crucial both in terms of liaison between council departments (highways and insurance) and between neighbouring local authorities to determine levels of service for highway users, especially for local highway networks that cross borders.

Applied in the right way the new code provides an opportunity for increased flexibility. It is hoped that highway authorities will ultimately be able to produce more bespoke maintenance programmes that are better suited to their individual requirements and therefore deliver an improved level of service for the public.

For further information about Weightmans LLP or to discuss any of the issues in this update, please contact Peter Wake on 0151 242 6866  or by email at peter.wake@weightmans.com;  or Suzanne Milne on or 0161 233 7348 or by email at suzanne.milne@weightmans.com

Peter Wake and Suzanne Milne are partners in the Local Government Litigation Team at Weightmans LLP.

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