What is Highways England – and how can you help them?
We see them on the roads around the UK but do your drivers know what they do?
Highways England is the new name of the Highways Agency. But that doesn’t help most of us road users who don’t really understand what this organisation does. So we’ve delved into government documents to try and explain to professional road users why this official body is important to us.
What is Highways England?
Highways England is a government-owned company that manages the country’s main road network. This means 4,300 miles of core trunks roads in each region, the motorways and busiest A roads. These are called the ‘strategic road network’ and carry a third of all traffic.
The Scottish equivalent of Highways England is Transport Scotland and the Welsh version is the Transport Department of the Welsh Government. All London roads, meanwhile, are managed by Transport for London.
Up-to-date road and traffic information
‘Manages’ has grown to become a broad term that includes safety, traffic and information. Most importantly for us, Highways England runs an information and communications centre in Birmingham that monitors and informs drivers about accidents, road works and weather conditions. They compile this using more than 10,000 cameras and road sensors, and information from police, local authorities and weather stations. This is how the BBC, local radio and sat-nav operators get their road and traffic information.
You can easily tap into this flood of information yourself at any time. Simply go to the Traffic England website.
The HE communication centre also uses the information to control around 16,000 roadside and overhead signs to alert drivers to problems ahead.
Highways England Staff
Highways England also employ contractors to build and maintain roads, verges and the information infrastructure.
More controversially Highways England also have uniformed traffic officers, who often work with the police and have limited powers of their own, including being able to direct or stop vehicles. It is an offence not to comply with their directions. Traffic Officers can also remove and dispose of broken down or abandoned vehicles. Rest assured, however, that they do not have the power to detain, search or issue fixed penalties to drivers.
Report any obstructions yourself!
You can help Highways England by reporting obstructions on any motorway or A-road that they manage. If you spot obstructions or accidents, including mud, illegal signs, overhanging branches, hedges, builder’s skips or scaffolding that could be dangerous contact Highways England by email:
0300 123 5000 (call charges apply)
If you see a dangerous obstruction on a motorway or main trunk road in Scotland call Traffic Scotland
on 0800 028 1414
(freephone 24 hours, 7 days a week) or Traffic Wales on 0845 602 6020
(charges apply, 24 hours, 7 days a week).