Decision Maker: Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: Yes
Adoption of Highways Asset Management Plan 2021/22-2025/26 – An Investment Strategy and Action Plan for the next 5 Years.
To adopt and publish a single document that sets out our approach to highways asset management over the next five years.
Background and reasons:
Over the past years we have significantly developed our approach to highways asset management enabling KCC to maximise Department for Transport (DfT) funding. As part of this work, KCC has formally adopted various key documents - Our Approach to Asset Management in Highways, Implementing Our Approach to Asset Management in Highways and Developing Our Approach to Asset Management in Highways. We have also introduced various measures to implement the Well-managed Highway Infrastructure (WMHI) code of practice, again resulting in the adoption and publication of a range of documents – Applying the code of practice in Kent, Implementing the code of practice in Kent and A Risk Based Approach –
Service Level Risk Assessments. As a result we have been able to demonstrate consistently that we are a Band 3 DfT Incentive Fund authority, make the case for additional funding, and optimise our ability to defend claims. Collectively, these published documents form our existing Highways Asset Management Plan (HAMP).
Despite making significant progress in recent years, we, as other highways authorities, are in an increasingly challenging environment, with deteriorating assets, increasing traffic volumes, uncertainty around future funding and, more recently, facing the impacts of the global pandemic. It is therefore timely to develop a new single and updated HAMP document, to identify a clear investment strategy and associated action plan for the future that is fit for purpose and recognises the challenges and opportunities ahead.
The new document is a forward-looking document covering the next five years which:
• includes a vision statement
• sets out how highways asset management, as a key enabling service, contributes to achieving strategic outcomes and delivering Kent’s interim strategic plan
• describes how we go about asset management and risk-based decision-making
• explains what we know about the condition of our assets both now and going forward based on various investment levels
• sets out what our service levels are in terms of what we do and what we do not, alongside an assessment of associated risks
• outlines our asset management and WMHI improvements and achievements in recent years
• includes a five-year forward works programme (for specific asset groups), and
• lists the actions we will take forward in the coming years to further improve our approach to asset management, maximise asset lifespans, reduce lifecycle cost and improve future maintainability.
In addition to being an asset management plan for highways, the document essentially amounts to an Investment Strategy and Action Plan for the next five years. It seeks to move towards treating the management and maintenance of our highway assets as a multi-year plan, rather than an annual one. In that respect, the document highlights the importance of consistency of (broad levels of) funding and approach over that longer period, to enable us to deliver a more efficient service with better condition outcomes.
At the time of writing, the Department for Transport has only confirmed the levels of capital grant to be provided for highway maintenance in 2021/22. This funding is, in real terms, around 20% lower (around £9m) than in 2020/21 (but higher than 2019/20), though KCC was able to maintain existing budget levels overall in 2021/22 using unallocated 20/21 resource.
There is considerable uncertainty about DfT funding in 2021/22 and beyond. In the event that available resource over the next five years is considerably different to the broad levels of funding assumed in our analyses, (based on current funding levels continuing), the new strategy provides detailed information to enable informed decision-making around how we prioritise investment going forward. The HAMP document confirms our approach to asset management and how funding is allocated, which is particularly important in the event that funding reduces.
The main document also proposes new maintenance hierarchies for our road and footway assets, following detailed work during the last year in which we examined a number of options. The preferred hierarchies are based on those recommended in WMHI, as these provide sufficient granularity for our use given the scale and make-up of Kent’s network. For roads, we have adjusted the WMHI hierarchy to include our Resilient Highway Network as a new top category. The proposed hierarchies also enable us to adjust our future inspection and maintenance approach, for example to move resource away from little used or impassable country tracks, so that higher risks can be targeted.
The new HAMP document also sets out in detail the asset management and related services we provide (and equally those we do not), and an assessment of risk associated with that balance.
As Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, I agree to adopt and publish a single Highways Asset Management Plan document that sets out our approach to highways asset management over the next five years.
Publication date: 07/07/2021
Date of decision: 07/07/2021
Effective from: 15/07/2021