The Highways Agency, established in 1994, is an executive agency of the Department for Transport. The Secretary of State for Transport is responsible for overall Government policy on motorways and trunk roads in England and determining the strategic framework and the financial resources within which it operates. The Highways Agency is the road network operator for England: managing the traffic using English roads and administering the network as a public asset. In 2015 the Highways Agency was replaced by Highways England.
The strategic road network operated by the Highways Agency is the single largest Government asset comprising 9 380km / 5 863 miles of motorways and trunk roads.
The Highways Agency regards research as the key source of new ideas, knowledge, tools and technologies that drive forward innovative solutions to customer needs. Research is guided by a strategy developed in consultation with other government departments, industry and road users. A £12 million programme of about 200 projects is split into 3 themes.
The objectives are stated in relation to each of the three themes, as follows:
Civil Engineering: to provide specialist advice, and represent the Agency on committees and at international meetings related to Civil Engineering. It is responsible for civil engineering policy, standards and specifications.
Traffic Safety & Environment: to provide specialist advice, and represent the Agency on committees and at international meetings related to traffic, safety and the environment. It is responsible for safety and environment policy, standards and specifications.
Traffic Systems & Signing is responsible for developing and piloting new traffic systems for development on the trunk road network, improving traffic management techniques at roadworks and helping to develop signing strategies. It is also responsible for operational support for the motorway communications system.
The organisation and policy context is defined by the three themes and their scope, as follows:
- Contracts & Specification
- Geotechnical & Ground Engineering
- Pavement Engineering
- Structures Design Management
Traffic Safety & Environment:
- Emissions & Pollution
- Landscape & Cultural Heritage
- Horticulture & Nature Conservation
- Safety, Layout & Vehicle Restraint
- Traffic Appraisal, Modelling & Economics
Traffic Systems & Signing:
- Strategic Network Control & Driver Information
- Tactical Network Control & Traffic Modelling
- Technology Pilots
- Network Control Programme & Strategy
- Signs Team
- Traffic Management & Safety at Roadworks
Funding for the Highways Agency research is on-going and financed by the UK government. The research may be carried out directly by government agencies or commissioned to be carried out by contractors, both academic and non-academic.
Programme budget 2003-4: £12.0 million (excl. VAT)