Agenda item

Highway Infrastructure Contract - Annual Review

This report is the second annual review to be reported to Overview and Scrutiny of the Highway Infrastructure Contract between Medway Council and VolkerHighways. This report and the supporting appendix provide an annual review for Year 4 of the Contract Term, covering the period 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021.




This report presented the annual review of the Highway Infrastructure Contract between Medway Council and VolkerHighways. This covered the period from August 2020 to July 2021. The contract had commenced in 2017 for a period of five years, with the possibility of five single year extensions, depending on performance. VolkerHighways had achieved the level required for a third year extension which meant that the contract was currently scheduled to end on 31 July 2024.


It was noted that the maintenance of the highway and its assets was a statutory duty and that the current value of the highways assets was just over £2 billion with the land being valued at just under £3 billion. The intention was for the next annual update to be reported to the Committee in January 2023.


The following was discussed:


  • Highways Funding – A Committee Member expressed concern that highways funding provided by the Department for Transport was reducing year on year and that there was a shortfall in Medway. The Acting Head of Highways responded that there was reduced funding available nationally. Covid-19 had been a factor and it was not yet clear how funding would recover. She advised that there had been no reduction in the revenue or capital budget available until the current year. The maintenance of infrastructure would be a challenge in view of the funding constraints. Funding was prioritised to ensure highways were kept in a safe condition, which was a statutory duty. Remaining funding would be targeted to achieve the best outcomes possible. Over the last few years, investment had been targeted at the unclassified network. This had ensured that the national average had been met for classification. Although 17% of unclassified roads still needed maintenance, improvements had been made by using available resources effectively. The amount of funding required nationally was so large it was not clear how it would be resolved in the long term. The funding deficit for maintenance had reduced from around £41 million to £32 million.


  • Designated design life – It was confirmed that there was not a list of designated design life for every carriageway and it was not known when every carriageway had been built. A rolling programme of condition surveys was undertaken for the full road network and the structural condition of every road was monitored. There was awareness of the maintenance backlog but securing the funding required was challenging.


  • Electric Vehicle Fleet – A Member asked when 100% of the vehicle fleet would be electric. The Acting Head of Highways said that there were currently three electric vehicles in the fleet and that alternative fuel sources were being considered. The VolkerHighways representative added that battery technology and vehicle range was not yet good enough for use in larger vehicles. Vehicles were being trialled on an ongoing basis.


  • Medway Tunnel – In relation to the Medway Tunnel and Road Infrastructure Scheme, it was asked how the £4.9 million of funding was broken down. The Acting Head of Highways said that the final programme was currently being put together ready to go out to tender. Much of the funding would be used within the tunnel but there would also be a retaining wall in Pier Road and the road linkages to the tunnel would be improved. A breakdown of the expenditure would be circulated to the Committee following the meeting. In response to a further question, it was confirmed that Challenge Fund money had to be spent by 2024 and plans were currently on track to meet this, although there were a number of challenges, such as sourcing materials. A Life Cycle Plan would be run in relation to the Medway Tunnel so that the impact of the money invested could be ascertained.


  • Highways Infrastructure Funding (HIF) – in relation to the HIF for the Hoo Peninsula, the new roads would need maintaining and new housing would require the construction of further roads. The Member requested the undertaking of a Sustainability Appraisal for the HIF and questioned how the maintenance costs of these extra roads would be funded. In response, the Acting Head of Highways said that HIF was not delivered out of highways funding. She said that roads were only adopted once they met certain criteria, which ensured that good quality assets were adopted. The Department for Transport Funding formula was based upon road length, but new roads would not attract much extra funding as they represented a small percentage of the overall network. There was a need to maximise the use of existing resources and bid for any new resources available.


The Director of Place and Deputy Chief Executive added that as regeneration progressed there would be additional roads requiring maintenance but quality was assessed prior to the adoption of the roads. HIF would see £86 million of expenditure on roads and the Council would want to ensure that roads were built to a high quality to ensure longevity. Funding from the DFT for the existing road network needed to be considered as well as developer Section 106 contributions. The Council’s Asset Management approach would be adopted. This was ongoing work and while there would not be enough funding to do everything, the approach was about maximising use of resources and opportunities for funding, ensuring that all work undertaken was to a high standard to ensure longevity. The Assistant Director, Regeneration added that everything would be built to a suitable standard for adoption.


  • Flooding and Drainage – A Member asked for an update about the ongoing flooding issue and the resulting congestion near to the Asda store in Pier Road. The Acting Head of Highways considered that headway was being made with Southern Water in addressing the issue but that it required significant expenditure. There was now a better understanding of the issue. Highways were engaging with Southern Water but work to address the issue was not understood to be imminent. A further update would be provided to the Committee outside the meeting.




The Committee:


a)    Noted the contents of the report and the Annual Review for Year 4 of the HIC, as set out in Appendix 1.


b)    Requested that a breakdown of the £4.9 million of Department for Transport Challenge Funding be provided to the Committee, with particular reference to the amount to be spent on the Medway Tunnel improvements.


c)    Requested that an update be provided to the Committee in relation to the addressing of flooding and drainage issues in the vicinity of the Asda store in Pier Road, Gillingham.

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