South East roads region scores lower than average for user satisfaction

The Office of Rail and Road’s 2021-22 Benchmarking National Highways report, published today, 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 covers the period from 2020-21 to 2024-25.

The South East – the region with the highest levels of traffic – experienced the highest levels of delay, the least reliable journeys and the most delay due to roadworks. This may have contributed to 67.9% user satisfaction, the second lowest of the six regions.

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 East experienced the highest levels of average delay, with 9.8 seconds of delay per mile travelled, up from 7.9 seconds last year.

This was the only one of the six regions with a level of delay above the National Highways ambition of 9.5 seconds by 2024-25. The North West had the largest increase in average delay, rising from 6.0 seconds to 8.8 seconds per vehicle mile.

Journey time reliability at national level worsened from 1.9 seconds of unexpected delay per mile travelled in 2020-21 to 2.8 seconds per mile travelled in 2021-22. On a regional level, the South East recorded 3.1 seconds – the largest unexpected delay of all the regions.

The South East was one of two regions to experience small decreases in roadworks related delays, with the figure falling from 1.3 minutes per hour travelled to 1.1 minutes per hour travelled. The North West had the highest level of delays due to roadworks, with the figure more than doubling from 1.1 minutes to 2.4 minutes.

The South East did considerably improve in the timeliness and accuracy with which it provides information on roadworks. Its percentage of overnight road closures that are accurately notified rose from 42.4% to 63.4%, although the 2021-22 figure is the fifth best of all six regions.

Most of National Highways’ regions continued to perform at or above the national-level target of 95% for the condition of road surfaces (known as ‘pavement condition’). The South East recorded 96.4% down a fraction from 96.6% in 2020-21.

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.”