Regulator reports South East as worst-performing region for accurately notifying motorway road closures

As a result of ORR driving the need for greater transparency and data to be published, National Highways has increased the number of performance indicators the company makes public at a regional level from just five in 2019-20 to 22 in 2020-21.

This new data is published in ORR’s benchmarking report.

In one of the indicators reported for the first time, ORR saw significant differences across England in the accuracy and timeliness in the notification of overnight road closures.

National Highways is tasked with ensuring that, nationally, 90% of overnight road closures are published accurately, seven days in advance, by 2024-25. As reported in ORR’s Annual Assessment of National Highways, the company achieved 55% of all closures notified correctly in 2020-21.

ORR found the South East to be the worst performing region, with under half (42%) of road closures accurately notified. This compares to 55% nationally and the best performing regions in the Midlands (66%) and the South West (64%).

ORR reports that despite the company improving how it informs road users about closures, National Highways will still need to make substantial progress on road closure notification during Road Period 2 (2020-2025) to meet its 90% target, with all regions currently performing well below the national-level 2024-25 target.

ORR also saw the South East – the most heavily used trafficked region of the road network – continue to suffer the highest levels of delays than any other region.

Road users in the South East already suffer the least reliable journeys and spend more time in delays due to roadworks, with an average delay of 7.9 seconds per vehicle per mile verses 6.7 seconds nationally.

The region did exceed the national target (86%) for clearing incidents, with 89% cleared within less than one hour.

ORR’s report found the South East also exceeded the target of 95% of road surfaces not requiring further investigation (97%).

ORR also reports 31 sections of the strategic road network were above the legal air quality levels across the country in 2020-21, varying significantly by region. There were 11 in the Midlands, none in the East of England and eight in the South East.

ORR expects National Highways to make progress across England in reducing the impact of the strategic road network on the environment and ORR will continue to monitor progress against these indicators during the remainder of Road Period 2 (2020-2025).

Sneha Patel, Deputy Director of Highways at ORR said:

“Our annual benchmarking report this year has led to greater transparency around National Highways’ performance and will incentivise its regions to improve further.

“We’ve now got a four-fold increase in the number of performance indicators that National Highways must report on: that’s a considerable step forward.

“However, there continue to be significant regional differences and we expect National Highways to apply the lessons it has learned about what works well in one region to other parts of the country as part of the steps it will take to meet all national-level targets by 2024‑25.”