Highway to a new name as Government roads company changes again

Highways England has announced it is changing its name to National Highways.

The rebrand of the Government-owned company responsible for motorways and major A-roads in England comes only six years after its name was changed from Highways Agency.

Despite the name chance, National Highways will not have any control over roads in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

It was also announced that Nick Harris has been appointed as the organisation’s new chief executive, having carried out the role on an interim basis since February.

Asked by the PA news agency how much the rebrand will cost and quickly it will be carried out, a National Highways spokesman said: “Work will be managed in-house wherever possible and, keeping the cost to the taxpayer at the forefront of our mind, will be kept to a minimum.

“Changes to branding will be minimal and carried out over time as part of routine maintenance and renewal.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Nick will be an excellent CEO and I’m looking forward to continuing to work closely with him as we build back better across the country.

“Nick will steer Highways England into an exciting new chapter, as it evolves into National Highways and delivers on our £27 billion plan to improve our roads and make journeys safer, smoother and greener.”

Mr Harris said: “I am pleased to be taking up the reins at such an exciting time. We have achieved a great deal and there is still more to be done.

“As we deliver the second roads investment strategy ensuring the safety of all road users, the delivery of our work and the benefits to our customers remains at the centre of our organisation.”

AA president Edmund King described the name change as “a bizarre move” and the company “looks after main roads and motorways in England”.

He told the PA news agency: “It is not national in the sense that it doesn’t cover the nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Drivers really don’t care what it is called but they do care about having well-maintained, safe roads and motorways.

“Ironically many people still refer to it as the Highways Agency despite changing its name six years ago.

“When drivers are stuck in jams on pot-holed roads, they don’t care whether the fat controller is from the Highways Agency, Highways England or National Highways, they just want the roads sorted.”

When speculation about the rebrand first emerged in October last year, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said: “Given this Westminster Government’s obsession with rowing back our devolution settlement, this rebrand is wrong, self-aggrandising and offensive.”

She went on: “The fact remains that powers over the operation and maintenance of highways are fully devolved.

“It is beyond baffling that the UK Government has to be reminded of this fact, over 20 years since the establishment of devolution.

“It is high time that the Tories accept reality and keep their hands off our devolved powers.”

Highways England has faced major criticism in recent years over the safety of smart motorways which involve using the hard shoulder as a live running line.

It insists the roads are at least as safe as conventional motorways.