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National Highways becomes the new name for Highways England

Some in the motor trade industry will be interested to know that ‘National Highways’ has now become the new name for ‘Highways England’.

The Government-owned company has recently changed its name after a rebranding exercise whilst also appointing a new chief executive, Nick Harris, who has been working at the company since 2016, having formerly been the organisation’s chief executive director of operations and serving as acting chief executive since February 2021, he replaces Jim O’Sullivan.

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

In a statement, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Nick will steer Highways England into an exciting new chapter as it evolves into National Highways and delivers on our £27bn plan to improve our roads and make journeys safer, smoother and greener.”

A statement from the company mentioned that Mr Harris’s priorities will involve “a particular focus on continued road safety improvements and the transformation of National Highways as a global leader in road building and maintenance, as well as delivering world-class health and safety”.

The organisation was known as Highways England since 2015, having replaced the former Highways Agency that shared many of the same functions under a different model. National Highways is responsible for building, managing, and maintaining England’s 4,300 miles of major A-roads and motorway networks used by many motorists and motor trade businesses every day.

The organisation will remain responsible for strategic roads in England only, the roads in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will remain under the full supervision of their existing respective firms.

In a recent statement, a spokesperson for the company said: “The name change will enable the company to renew its focus as it delivers the government’s £27bn strategic roads investment programme.

The strategic road network plays a key role in leveling up by connecting England’s regions. The name change recognises we are entering a new era for roads enabling the company to address the opportunities presented by automation and digitisation and play its part in delivering the government’s net-zero carbon target.”

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This latest marketing gimmick provides the company with no insurance policy for success, as it comes after many heated debates regarding the safety of smart motorways which continue to grab negative headlines and divide public opinion.

The company has also recently come under scrutiny for some of its roadbuilding plans and the impact it could have on the environment.

From the motor trade industry, Edmund King, President of the AA, said: “This seems a bizarre move as ‘Highways England’ describes what it does on the tin – it looks after main roads and motorways in England.

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.”