Highways England and Kent CC have signed a partnership agreement to improve planning and communication between the two bodies.
The move is the first of its kind but is part of an ongoing programme from the strategic road authority – formally the Highways Agency - of creating formalised agreements with local authorities, first revealed by Transport Network.
It follows on from a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Highways England and Greater Manchester last month, which will see the two bodies develop 'shared priorities and a long-term vision for motorways and key roads across the city-region'.
The central planks of the Kent agreement include protocols on agreeing and using diversion routes whenever a major road has to close, better communication over highways incidents to support more flexible use of electronic road signs and more co-ordination on road works to ensure diversion routes are available.
It also helps outline how the organisations will work together during major events in Kent and provides a joined-up approach to helping people prepare for winter driving.
Simon Sheldon-Wilson, director of customer operations at Highways England, who signed the document on behalf on the government-owned company, said: ‘Customers rightly expect a consistent experience when using main roads and motorways. This agreement, the first of its kind, will help both organisations to provide that by bringing together best practice and building on the positive, day-to-day relationship we already have with Kent CC.
'It will form a guide, which anyone in either of our organisations can call upon and help provide a seamless service for customers across Kent.’
For Kent CC, Roger Wilkin, director of highways, transport and waste signed the agreement, stating: ‘We have worked closely with Highways England to identify how we can improve the way we work together to better manage the highway network across Kent. We have developed a partnership agreement with the aim of empowering road users to better plan their journey and improve their journey times.
'Through effective joint working we will be able to minimise congestion and disruption, better manage incidents, improve planning for major events and optimise use of our assets to deliver effective messaging and consistent communication.’
In response to the Manchester MOU last month, Highways England chief executive Graham Dalton said: 'Greater Manchester is one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country so it’s vital that we work together to ensure it has a world-class road network to support the economy. Over £200m is already being invested on creating a smart motorway on a section on the M60 and M62, and we need to make sure that the work taking place there complements other improvements on local roads.
'Our research shows that for every pound we spend on England’s roads, it generates four pounds in long-term economic benefits. I’m therefore delighted we’ve been able to agree this new partnership with Transport for Greater Manchester to develop the region’s road network and help support its future success.'
Dr Jon Lamonte, chief executive of Transport for Greater Manchester, said: 'Having a clear, strategic approach to the management of highways across a city-region as large and complex as Greater Manchester – and making sure it works in tandem with tram, train and bus services – is absolutely essential to keep it growing and moving.
'As such, it is excellent news that we have been able to agree this new partnership with Highways England, which represents a key piece of the jigsaw in terms of making travel easier in Greater Manchester and allowing the region to fulfil its economic potential.'