Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency) is the government-owned company charged with operating, maintaining and improving England's motorways and major A roads. It operates information services through the provision of on-road signage and its Traffic England website, provides traffic officers to deal with incidents on its network, and manages the delivery of improvement schemes to the network.

Founded as an executive agency, it was converted into a government-owned company on 1 April 2015. As part of this transition, government set out its vision for the future of the strategic road network in its Road Investment Strategy. Highways England is now undertaking £15 billion of investment between 2015 and 2020 to improve the network in response to this.


Former logo of the Highways Agency

The Highways Agency was created as an executive agency of the Department for Transport on 30 March 1994.[2]

As part of the Department for Transport's 2010 Spending Review settlement, Alan Cook was appointed to lead an independent review of the government's approach to the strategic road network.[3] It recognised that the Highways Agency was closer to central government than other infrastructure operators, resulting in a lack of a strategic vision and certainty of funding due to the wider policy environment it operated in, as well as the limited pressure to drive efficiencies in the way faced by regulated sectors.[4] Following an announcement made on 27 June 2013 by Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, it became a government-owned company with the name Highways England on 1 April 2015.[5]

The Chief Executive, Jim O'Sullivan assumed his post on 1 July 2015, replacing Graham Dalton in that role.[6]


The M4 Motorway is managed by Highways England.

Highways England is responsible for operating, maintaining and improving the strategic road network (SRN). The SRN (the motorways and major A roads in England) comprises over 4,000 miles of road and includes various structures such as bridges, tunnels, drainage systems and technology assets including variable message signs and cabling. While the SRN represents around 2% of the total road length in England, it carries around a third of all motor vehicle traffic in England.[7]

Operating the Network

Highways England's operations are split into six regions[8] that are roughly based on the regions of England. These regions are subdivided into 13 operational areas.[8] These areas are each managed and maintained by an area team and a contractor, known respectively as the Managing Agent (MA) and the Managing Agent Contractor (MAC). In addition, there are a number of sections of road that are managed under DBFO contracts separately from the area teams.[8]

HE Region Operational area Counties covered (whole & partial) Roads managed
South West Area 1[9] Cornwall, Devon A30, A35, A38
Area 2[10] Bristol, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire M4, M5, A36, A40, A303, A4
South East Area 4[12] Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, West Sussex M2, M20, M23, A2, A20, A21, A23, A26, A27, A259, A2070
Area 5 (DBFO)[13] M25 Area: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey M25, M1, M4, M10, M11, M20, M26, A1, A3, A13, A30, A282, A1089
East Area 6[14] Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk M11, A11, A12, A14, A47, A120
Area 8[15] Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, M1, M11, M40, M45, A1, A5, A11, A14, A43, A45, A421, A428
Midlands Area 7[16] Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire M1, M6, M45, A1, A5, A14, A38, A42, A43, A45, A46, A50, A52, A421
Area 9[17] Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Worcester, Herefordshire M5, M6, M40, M42, M50, M54, A5, A40, A46, A49, A435, A449, A456, A458, A465, A6, A483,
North West Area 10[18] Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire M6, M53, M56, M57, M58, M60, M61, M62, M66, M67, M602, A41, A55, A56, A483, A550, A556, A570, A663, A5036
Area 13[19] Cumbria, Lancashire M6, M55, A65, A66, A69, A74(M), A585, A590, A595
North East Area 12[20] Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester M1, M18, M62, M180, M181, M606, M621, A1, A19, A61, A63, A64, A160, A168, A180, A616, A628, A1033
Area 14[21] Durham, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear A1, A19, A66, A69, A168, A174, A696, A1033

Enhancing the Network

In common with the regulated sectors, Highways England works to fixed funding periods called Road Periods. Each Road Period is currently five years in length for which a particular Road Investment Strategy (RIS) will broadly align. Prior to the start of a new Road Period, Highways England will provide the Secretary of State for Transport with an SRN Initial Report, providing an assessment of the state of the SRN, maintenance and enhancement priorities, and future development needs. Following this, the government produces a draft RIS setting out the high-level outputs that Highways England will need to deliver within the corresponding Road Period alongside the proposed funding. Highways England will then respond with a Strategic Business Plan detailing its plans for delivering the RIS which is reviewed by the Highways Monitor to assess whether the proposed requirements are deliverable with the proposed financial resources and sufficiently challenging. After the Strategic Business Plan and RIS is finalised, Highways England must deliver the agreed outputs and will be monitored on its progress by the Highways Monitor.[22]

Development of the SRN is achieved through Highways England's capital investment programme, currently funded entirely by government through grant-in-aid and set out in the first Road Investment Strategy. For Road Period 1 (2015-20), Highways England is undertaking around £15 billion of investment to deliver over 100 road improvement schemes, with additional funding to address other local challenges in proximity of the SRN relating to the environment; air quality; cycling, safety and integration; and growth and housing.[23]

From 2020-21 onwards Highways England's activities will, at least in part, be funded by vehicle excise duty.[24]


National Traffic Information Service (NTIS)

Network Information Services (NIS), a Mouchel and Thales joint venture, operates the National Traffic Information Service on behalf of Highways England. NTIS is the information hub of England's strategic road network.[25]

The £57 million service is based at Quinton, Birmingham and is responsible for providing accurate, historical, real-time and predictive traffic and incident information to businesses, the travelling public and Highways England's operations.[25] It collects real-time traffic information from over 10,000 fixed sites on the motorway and all-purpose trunk road network from MIDAS and Traffic Monitoring Unit (TMU) electronic loops in the road surface and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras at the roadside. Additionally it uses anonymous floating vehicle traffic data (FVD) from vehicles to supplement the fixed traffic monitoring sites.[citation needed] NTIS also has access to nearly 2,000 CCTV cameras,[26] 300 weather stations, 4,600 roadside electronic signs, 16,000 roadside electronic matrix signals and incident data from over 250 operational partners including the police and local authorities.[27]

It then processes this data to create useful intelligence for operational decision making and dissemination of current and predictive information to the public using the 4,600 roadside variable-message signs,[28] the Highways England website[29] (including a mobile version), social media channels such as Twitter and the telephone-based Highways England customer contact centre[30] as well as distributing information to the media and business through a number of data feeds[26][31] These feeds are widely used by organisations such as the BBC and local newspaper websites for their own traffic information. Services such as Google maps and satnav operators also make use of Highways England's data for their traffic information.

Area teams

The motorway network is divided into "Areas". They are contracts that are awarded by the Department for Transport. The Area Teams work alongside the Highways England Traffic Officer Service – providing incident support, emergency traffic management and infrastructure maintenance. They are responsible for the management and operation of the roads in their area.[32] In 2009, fleet tracking has been deployed to assist area teams to manage their specialist winter maintenance vehicles during the Cold Snap.[33]


Highways England employs uniformed traffic officers; on-road and control room, as well as specialist staff for work in engineering, surveying, accountancy, and administration. There is a graduate entry scheme, with general entry and specialist engineering entry options.[34] For the Traffic Officer Service each team is supervised by a team manager, one of between six and eight such managers generally working together, to ensure 24-hour management cover.

Governance and accountability

Formal governance structure

Highways England is a private company limited by shares, wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Transport.[35] The Highways England Board is the primary governance arm of the company and is accountable to the Secretary of State for Transport. The Board delegate responsibility of the day-to-day running of the company to the Chief Executive who, as the Accounting Officer, is accountable to the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Transport, as the Principal Accounting Officer, for the stewardship of public funds. The Principal Accounting Officer and Secretary of State for Transport are both ultimately accountable to Parliament for the activities and performance of Highways England.[1]

Performance monitoring

The Infrastructure Act 2015 established the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) as the monitor for Highways England. ORR is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the performance and efficiency of Highways England, and advising the Secretary of State for Transport on its compliance against the Road Investment Strategy and Licence. The Act also established Transport Focus (previously Passenger Focus) as its watchdog with the purpose of promoting and protecting the interests of users of the strategic road network.[35]

Traffic England

Traffic England is a website[36] that gives information about the latest traffic conditions as well as details of any roadworks or events that may cause congestion.[37] By selecting current motorway information users can see the average speed between individual motorway junctions, what is being displayed on all the variable-message signs, and images from traffic cameras.[37] The website is run by Highways England's National Traffic Information Service.

Survive Group

The Survive Group is a partnership between Highways England, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the breakdown/recovery industry and other road service providers. The Survive Group has been established to improve the safety of those who work on the road network and the travelling public and is also dedicated to the promotion of driving safety. The name Survive comes from Safe Use of Roadside Verges in Vehicular Emergencies.

The Survive Group website holds information on the Survive Group membership details and activities being undertaken by the working groups. It also supplies advice on how to drive safely in a wide range of driving conditions, advice on planning journeys. Survive also provides publications and new guidance produced by the Survive members plus news on new initiatives and forthcoming road safety events.[38]

Historical Railways Estate

In 2013, Highways England took over responsibility for the Historical Railways Estate from BRB (Residuary) Limited.[39]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Highways England Annual Report and Accounts 2016-2017" (PDF). Highways England. Retrieved 20 August 2017. 
  2. ^ John MacGregor, Secretary of State for Transport (30 March 1994). "Trunk Roads (Review)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. col. 929. My target was to complete the review in time for it to provide the basis for the new Highways Agency, which is being launched today. 
  3. ^ "A Fresh Start for the Strategic Road Network: The Government Response" (PDF). Department for Transport. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  4. ^ "A fresh start for the strategic road network" (PDF). Alan Cook. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  5. ^ Alexander, Danny (27 June 2013). "Investing in Britain's future". Gov.uk. 
  6. ^ "Appointment of Highways Agency Chief Executive" (Press release). Government News Network. 12 June 2008. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2008. 
  7. ^ "Use of the Strategic Road Network" (PDF). Department for Transport. Retrieved 30 June 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c "Highways Agency Network management map". Highways Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2009. 
  9. ^ "Area 1 – South West England". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  10. ^ "Area 2 Bristol/Gloucestershire/M5". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  11. ^ "Area 3 Berks/Bucks/Hants". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  12. ^ "Area 4 Kent/Sussex/M2 etc". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  13. ^ "Area 5 M25 ring around London". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  14. ^ "Area 6 Cambs/M11 corridor". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  15. ^ "Area 8 Northants/ M1 corridor etc". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  16. ^ "Area 7 Derbyshire/Leicestershire/Notts". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  17. ^ "Area 9 Staffordshire / Warwickshire/ West Midlands". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  18. ^ "Area 10 Cheshire/Merseyside/Manchester". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  19. ^ "Area 13 Cumbria/Lancs". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  20. ^ "Area 12 Lincolnshire/Yorkshire". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  21. ^ "Area 14 Durham/North Yorkshire/Tyne and Wear". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2009. 
  22. ^ "Strategic Highways Company: Licence". Department for Transport. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  23. ^ "Road investment strategy: 2015 to 2020 - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-07. 
  24. ^ "Road Investment Strategy post 2020: planning ahead" (PDF). Department for Transport. 16 March 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  25. ^ a b "National Traffic Information Service". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. 
  26. ^ a b "National Traffic Information Service Overview". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2008. 
  27. ^ "Collection of Traffic Information". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. 
  28. ^ "Festive test for transport network". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 21 December 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2008. 
  29. ^ "Highways England". highways.gov.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  30. ^ "Better Information" (PDF). Highways Agency. May 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2008. 
  31. ^ "Services to be Delivered". The Highways Agency's Traffic Control Centre Project. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2008. 
  32. ^ "How We Manage Our Roads". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. 
  33. ^ "Vehicle tracking assists road safety during cold snap". Cybit Ltd. 2010. Archived from the original on 18 December 2010. 
  34. ^ "Career information and graduate scheme". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 21 August 2012. 
  35. ^ a b "Infrastructure Act 2015". legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 30 June 2017. 
  36. ^ "Traffic England". Highways Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  37. ^ a b "Traffic England: Real-time traffic information". Highways Agency. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  38. ^ "Hard Shoulder Safety and Road Safety". Survive Group. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  39. ^ "BRB (Residuary) Ltd has been abolished". Gov.uk. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 

External links

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