Highways England is an integral yet unsung hero of the UK’s economy. The Strategic Road Network it manages is 4,300 miles long, carrying a third of all traffic and two-thirds of HGVs. These roads underpin economic growth, but were never designed for the increased load seen over the past two decades.
So, in 2014, the government announced a multi-billion-pound investment package to future-proof those motorways and trunk roads. At the same time, Highways Agency became Highways England, an arm’s length governmental body with complete autonomy over the delivery of major capital projects from start to finish – projects that would include the road improvement initiatives.
Highways England therefore needed to transform its capability and change the way it selected, prioritised and delivered enhancements to the road network. This meant a transformation of its Capital Projects business to enable delivery of over 110 road schemes in five years, with annual capital spend under its control rising to £4bn (a four-fold increase from when it was Highways Agency).
PwC, alongside colleagues from Mace and Jacobs, was appointed as the Transformation Programme Delivery Partner and, over five years, supported Highways England with implementation of a decentralised operating model, underpinned by leading cloud-based programme controls.
The outcomes were:
- an increase in P3M3 Project Maturity (P3M3 is an industry-leading maturity framework and the fundamental benchmark for HE’s performance) from 0.9 to 3.1 out of 5;
- a step change in project management for delivery of schemes ranging from £50m to over £1bn each;
- capital savings/cost avoidance of around £1bn through identification and reduction of low-benefit schemes; and
- established communities of practice for core project control functions (e.g. risk management) causing staff engagement to increase from 37% to almost 70%.
At a time when there have been very public delays in the development of major infrastructure programmes, Highways England now has the people, organisation, processes, information and technology to deliver the largest road enhancement programme we’ve seen in a generation – the government’s £17bn Roads Investment Strategy (RIS).
Not only have we helped Highways England fulfil its near-term obligations to the government, but our work has also left an important legacy. Through delivering in a JV configuration, we have helped Highways England to fix its immediate priorities and build future capabilities, allowing HE to build trust with key stakeholders such as the Department for Transport – and ultimately helping to drive outcomes for customers and road users, such as increased lane availability and reduced congestion.
PwC, Mace and Jacobs provided the tools and processes that helped to build Highways England’s capability, but it is the Highways England teams who will continue to use them and their associated new skills to deliver the Roads Investment Strategy objectives, simultaneously driving benefits for road users, the government, and the public purse.
“Following your work, we were able to identify the 32 riskiest projects, and target scarce analytical support on mitigating those risks. We have been able to gain the confidence of DfT in our grip on the RIS portfolio, and have agreed in principle that a number of schemes offering poor value for money will be stopped.”
Chief Analyst, Highways England
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