MPs have urged the Highways Agency to drive ahead with an £80 million asset management system procurement as a “high priority”.
The National Audit Office said in a newly published report that the Highways Agency needed to “give a higher priority to develop and implement its Integrated Asset Management System”.
The agency, which is responsible for the country’s main roads and roadside assets, was not examining the whole life cost of maintenance “as well as it might”, the NAO said. The system was needed to fill in the agency’s information gaps around the repair state of “safety fencing, drainage, embankments or structures”, among other assets.
The system will improve asset inventory data, and link the condition of assets to maintenance options, “to ensure that the right projects go forward at the right time”, the NAO said. From 2012, it will be the key system for designing projects.
In a contract notice issued last month, the Highways Agency said it wanted the system to be based on off-the-shelf products and tailored to its needs. Key functions will include asset inventory, cost and maintenance modelling, operations, strategic reporting, and data interchange with other government agencies’ systems. Highways Agency staff at remote locations will also be able to access it on fixed and mobile PCs.
The NAO made its recommendations in today’s ‘Contracting for Highways Maintenance’ report, in which it said the costs of maintenance had risen above inflation, after the agency failed in some regards to make best use of its contractors. It said the agency was struggling to monitor the exact costs of different types of contracts with independent road maintenance firms.
Graham Dalton, chief executive of the Highways Agency, said the maintenance cost increases reflected the increased standard of work it was doing, and that it carried out more work at night to minimise road disruption.
He added: “We work hard to keep our motorways and trunk roads safe and well maintained, keeping disruption to road users to a minimum and increasing value for money for the taxpayer. ... The NAO found that most schemes are delivered on time or early and that we are making journey times more reliable for road users.”
Separately, the Highways Agency is also procuring a £200 million system to improve its intelligence and analysis on traffic data.
The agency's IT infrastructure is run by Atos Origin under a £75 million five year deal signed in 2008.