The UKRLG published its Code of Practice 'Well-managed Highway Infrastructure' on 28 October 2016.
The new Code is available on the UK Roads Liaison Group website. This is the first edition of ‘Well-managed Highway Infrastructure’. It replaces Well-maintained Highways, Management of Highway Structures and Well-lit Highways.
Status of the Code
The new Code of Practice is not statutory but provides highway authorities with guidance on highways management. Adoption of the recommendations within the Code is a matter for each highway authority, based on their own legal interpretation, risks, needs and priorities.
Adoption of an integrated asset management approach
The Code is designed to promote the adoption of an integrated asset management approach to highway infrastructure based on the establishment of local levels of service through risk-based assessment.
The Code is produced as a single document to emphasise the integrated approach to highway network infrastructure assets.Overarching matters are dealt with in Part A and additional asset specific matters in Parts B (Highways), C (Structures) and D (Lighting).
No specific guidance: “Authorities will develop their own levels of service”
Changing from reliance on specific guidance and recommendations in the previous Codes to a risk-based approach determined by each highway authority will involve analysis, development and gaining of approval through authorities’ executive processes.
The intention of the new Code is that authorities will develop their own levels of service and the Code provides guidance for authorities to consider when developing their approach in accordance with local needs, priorities and affordability.
Affordability is a new concept in the Code and we wait to see how this will be viewed by the Courts.The Court of Appeal confirmed in Wilkinson v City of York  that affordability, or budgetary constraints do not feature in a consideration of whether an authority can have the benefit of a section 58 defence.
Boundaries are not usually apparent to highway users and authorities are advised to consider the possibility of distinct changes to levels of service through a risk-based local approach, both across authority boundaries and between roads with different character within an authority.
In the interest of route consistency for highway users, all authorities, including strategic, local, combined and those in alliances, are encouraged to collaborate in determining levels of service, especially across boundaries with neighbours responsible for strategic and local highway networks.
Timetable to implement the new Code
Some authorities may be able to implement a full risk-based approach immediately. Others may require more time and may choose to continue with existing practices for an interim period, in which case the previous Code will remain valid for them until the earlier of when they have implemented their approach or a period of two years from the date of publication of this Code. The new Code can therefore either be adopted straightaway by highway authorities or they have until October 2018 to adopt a risk based approach.
The new Code includes only brief coverage of the legal framework relating to highways claims. Further practical guidance on the legal implications of the revised Code for highway claims will be provided in the new edition of Well Managed Highway Liability Risk being produced by the Highway Liability Joint Task Group and due for publication over the coming months.
Steven Conway has been involved with the review of the Codes of Practice since 2011, he was a Corresponding Member to the review of the Codes of Practice and currently sits on the Highway Liability Joint Task Group contributing to the new edition of Well Managed Highway Liability Risk.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.