April 2014

Well, it’s the end of April and all-in-all it’s not been a bad month. I’ve visited some old haunts, found people to talk to and eaten plenty of chocolate.

Now to sort out what entertainment could possibly present itself for a May Bank Holiday…

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The Forest of Dean picture for April this year was one of a batch of “spare” photographs taken on a walk three years ago. It was a very pleasant walk around some lakes which I keep meaning to write up into a proper webpage. Someone remind me at some point.

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In other news, the Highways Agency is becoming an independent Government-owned company (not to be confused with a Quango, which is unfashionable). It will operate the motorways and strategic A-roads of this green and pleasant land (which would admittedly be rather more green and pleasant without so many motorways and strategic A-roads cluttering the place up, but that’s by the by).

Independent Government-owned companies of course need some form of regulation, so the Government is setting up a subsidiary body to the Office of Rail Regulation called the Strategic Road Network Monitor. The Monitor will manage the Strategic Highways Company, which will essentially be the successor to the Highways Agency. As a subsidiary of the Office of Rail Regulation, the Strategic Road Network Monitor will be able to draw on the experience that the Office of Rail Regulation has gained managing Network Rail while simultaneously benefiting from the input of road-derived talent from outside the current regulatory sector.

As the Office of Rail Regulation only concerns itself with outline regulatory targets (regarding safety, finances and other such high-level things) day-to-day customer appreciation of the rail industry is assessed by a body called Passenger Focus. This organisation distributes questionnaires, collates the results and publishes reports on the overall performance of the rail, tram and bus sectors. A subsidiary body of Passenger Focus will be established to provide the same function for wider users of motorways and strategic A-roads. The result will be an improved understanding of levels of satisfaction regarding quality, reliability and value-for-money of road journeys, allowing those investing in the transport network of this country to better compare transport modes and hold those responsible for the wider  sector to account.

It is to be hoped that road users will appreciate this revision of their form of transport to better resemble the structure used by the rail network, where costs are clearly apportioned and investment assessed in a structured manner in advance before being agreed for a number of years. This has smoothed out peaks and troughs in investment in a most favourable manner. The result should be an opportunity to widen the effective management of rail improvements to incorporate the road sector, with the resultant impact on journey reliability that will of course result.

It is, of course, an amendment which all those in favour of open management styles and fairness across transport regulation (such as this writer) have been supporting for many years and will in turn hopefully be followed by better apportionment of the costs of maintaining, managing and regulating the strategic roads network to the direct beneficiaries of this network.

See also:

Department for Transport (DfT)

Office of Rail Regulation (ORR)

Passenger Focus

Highways Agency