The code of practice for highway maintenance management is now more than 10 years old, it was brought out pre-credit crunch.

Published in July 2005 the code provides local authorities with guidance on highways management with the aim of ensuring they can deliver a positive highway maintenance policy. The Code was commissioned by the UK Roads Liaison Group and drafted by the engineering and design consultancy, Atkins.

For the latest version go to www.ukroadsliaisongroup.org to download an Adobe Acrobat file. A Practical guide produced by the Institute of Engineers also exists but has not been updated since 2009.

The code is in its 14th amendment and will be subject to a substantial overhaul following a two-year review and consultation process with a publication date set for the summer of 2016.

The new Code (or Codes) will cover roads, lighting and structures. The aim of the Code is for it to be relevant, fit-for-purpose and affordable to highway authorities. It will not outline any minimum or default standards but will offer case studies, educational information and give examples of good practice in particular scenarios.

The consultation was significant and very positive. Workshops were held across the UK. Questions which arose in the workshops included:

  • Will a risk based approach undermine consistency between local authorities and the sharing of best practice?
  • How will legal departments advise on the relevance of the new Code in relation to liability?
  • Will Code recommendations reflect the need for Risk Assessments be properly documented to demonstrate the professional “thinking” behind decisions taken?
  • What will the Insurance Sector's view be regarding a move to more risk based approach? Will premiums will rise?
  • Should more resources and time be spent in agreeing a clear definition of what falls into the category of a "defect"?

As a result of the comprehensive consultation, the completion of the new Code has taken longer than planned. This is to ensure that the Code embodies the risk based approach and its implementation in the highway authority context. The Department for Transport should also provide additional support to practitioners.

Once published, each authority can implement the Code in accordance with local needs, priorities and affordability. Some authorities will take take longer to implement a full risk based approach and they can continue with current maintenance and management practices for an interim period.

The date for full implementation is not yet set. A key issue will be how the code might be used to win or avoid liability claims or settle the low value claims promptly and at low cost.Only time will tell how the courts will regard the Code in the context of public liability claims.