Senior figures in the highways industry have suggested that many local authorities will struggle to implement the new Code of Practice by next October’s deadline, with some only paying ‘lip service’ to it.
At an industry event, Lila Tachtsi, technical director at Atkins and a member of the UK Roads Liaison Group (UKRLG), pointed out that the UKRLG’s code of practice Well-managed highway infrastructure was launched just over a year ago. She said: ‘We are at the halfway point so in theory we should be making significant progress.’
She added however that evidence on progress ‘has been anecdotal’. She said: ‘We don’t have anything certain to tell us what progress is being made.’
Asked whether local authorities had the skills and capacity to deliver the code in full, Ms Tachtsi said: ‘I strongly believe the capability is out there [but] I think that capacity is an issue.’
Matthew Lugg, director of public services for WSP Global and a former Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme advocate, said: ‘Full compliance with the code is pretty challenging. My view is that the emphasis should be with the risk-based [aspect] as that is where authorities may get into difficulties with compliance.
He added: ‘I’d be very surprised if [the vast majority] of authorities could actually get there by October 2018.’
Stressing that she was stating her personal view, Ms Tachtsi warned of a risk that people will pay ‘lip service’ to the code. She said: ‘The code produces something fundamentally different to what we had in the past. I worry if we think this is simply about, “let’s look at our asset management policy and strategy and then we move on”. I think we are missing a big opportunity.’
Ms Tachtsi gave the early results of the UKLRG survey of authorities on the implementation of the code. Only 35 authorities have so far responded to the survey, which remains open. She said: ‘The results are very positive, albeit that it was a small sample.’
Of those authorities that had completed the self-selecting survey, 94% had confidence in implementing the new code, with the same number expressing confidence in adopting a risk-based approach. However, 89% said they would like to see more events promoting the code, as well as training courses and e-learning.
Two thirds (66%) of councils are integrating their risk and asset management approaches. Ms Tachtsi suggested that this was a low figure, given that this was a fundamental part of the code. ‘That’s something that needs a bit more work,’ she said.
While 86% of authorities are collaborating on implementation with their neighbours and 71% with their insurance teams, only half (50%) were working with their legal teams, something that Ms Tachtsi described as ‘a risk’.
She said: ‘If you don’t have your legal team on board, they will not support you if you end up in court with your risk-based approach. I’m sure that is an area that the Department [for Transport] will want to look at in the near future.’