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ORR: Office of Rail and Road

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Regulator reports highest user satisfaction on South West region's roads

The Office of Rail and Road's 2021-22 Benchmarking National Highways report, published just a few days ago, outlines the regional differences in performance across National Highways' motorways and major A roads in England. The latest edition reviews the second year of Road Period 2 (RP2) which spans from 2020-21 to 2024-25.

The South West ranked highly across a range of key performance measures which might have contributed to 71.7% user satisfaction – the best score of the six National Highways regions.

The Strategic Road Network in the South West includes the M4 and connecting routes in and around London, and strategic roads in Gloucestershire, Somerset, Cornwall, Dorset, Devon and Wiltshire. There are 511 route miles in the South West, of which 35% are motorways. The A417, A30, A35 and some connecting roads are operated via DBFO (design, build, finance and operate) arrangements. The remainder of the network is managed directly by National Highways.

As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions eased, traffic levels on England's Strategic Road Network (SRN) increased which affected the level of delays experienced by road users. The South West experienced the smallest rise, with an increase from 6.2 seconds to 7.2 seconds per vehicle mile travelled. The national average traffic delay in 2019-20 was nine seconds per vehicle mile. The North West had the largest increase in average delay, rising from 6.0 seconds to 8.8 seconds per vehicle mile.

National Highways is tasked with clearing 86% of motorway incidents within an hour. Performance against this measure fell between 2020-21 and 2021-22, as the amount of traffic on the SRN recovered following the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of incidents on the network increased. However, each of National Highways' regions continued to perform above the national-level target, with South West and Midlands heading the pack, both recording 87.7% of incidents cleared within an hour.

The accuracy and timeliness with which National Highways provides roadworks information is measured by the percentage of overnight road closures that are accurately notified by National Highways. At a national level, the company is working towards a target of achieving 90% accuracy by 2024-25. The South West was the second-best performing region with 73.7% accuracy, up from 63.5% last year.

Feras Alshaker, Director of Highways at ORR, said:

"In 2021-22, National Highways' regions were dealt the challenge of maintaining performance in the face of rising traffic levels following the COVID-19 pandemic. As traffic levels recovered, delays also increased. Nevertheless, we have seen examples of where the regions have improved performance.

"Our report is an important resource that we expect National Highways to use to explore and understand regional variations in performance and, where practicable, to act on lessons learned to improve performance across the strategic road network. This will, ultimately, lead to better outcomes for road users, the communities it serves, as well as for the environment and the taxpayer."

You can download the full report at Be prepared for a long read!

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