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Government appoints roads watchdog and monitor

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The Government has appointed two bodies to hold the Highways Agency to account when it becomes a government-owned company early next year.

The Office of Rail Regulation will become roads monitor - ensuring the network performs as required. It will have  the power to issue fines, to make sure that the new highways company delivers what it has promised and honours the conditions of its licence.

User champion Passenger Focus, which represents bus, coach and tram passengers and has worked for rail passengers for more than 60 years, will now represent users of the strategic road network. This includes motorists and business users, as well as cyclists and walkers. This will involve major annual surveys, as well as research into road users’ top problems.

To reflect this new remit, the organisation has announced it will change its name to Transport Focus, with its existing work carried out by ‘Transport Focus – passengers’, and its new work under ‘Transport Focus – road users’.

Changes also being introduced as amendments to the bill include the power for the ORR to carry out independent enforcement activity if the highways company fails to deliver and new powers expanding the remit of Transport Focus.

Both bodies will be awarded more funding and will expand their operations so their existing work will not be affected.

Road Minister John Hayes said: "The reform of the Highways Agency and the introduction of a long term vision for the road network is at the heart of this government’s £24 billion commitment to improving our road network and ensuring long term certainty in unlocking economic growth.

"These changes along with the introduction of a new road monitor and watchdog, will make sure road users’ voices are heard and that decisions made are accountable to taxpayers, building on the good work that the Office of Rail Regulator and Passenger Focus do now."

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “We welcome the reform of the Highways Agency and the government’s desire to introduce a more long-term approach to funding, maintaining and improving the UK’s strategic road network. The creation of a roads monitor and road user watchdog are a sensible next step and we look forward to working with them both to champion the needs of the fleet industry.”

Karen Dee – FTA director of policy added:  "FTA is working closely with Transport Focus and supports its plans to make a difference for road users.  There is a steep learning curve for the organisation in taking on this new and important role – not least in understanding what different road users require from the strategic road network. FTA is keen to help Transport Focus develop the knowledge-base it needs so that it can be an effective voice for all road users."

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