Best practice strategies
to minimise public risk in the
management of roads and
Risk Management Practices
wish to acknowledge the Municipal Engineering Foundation for continuing to make
the annual study tours available for Engineers working in the Local Government
field. I thank Keith Wood, a
trustee of the Foundation, whose experience and knowledge was most helpful in
planning the study tour.
would like to acknowledge the support of Latrobe City, and particularly Richard
Hancock, Chief Executive Officer, and Larry Naismith, General Manager City
Infrastructure, in providing encouragement and support for the study tour.
thank my wife and daughters and also my work colleagues, whose support enabled
me to undertake the tour.
would also like to thank all of the tour hosts as listed below.
The people we met were generous with their time and most willing to share
|City of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada||www.city.richmond.bc.ca
|City of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada||www.city.surrey.bc.ca
|City of Redmond, Washington State, USA||www.ci.redmond.wa.us
|City of Kirkland, Washington State, USA||www.ci.kirkland.wa.us
|City of Independence, Missouri, USA||www.ci.independence.mo.us
|Department for Transport, London, UK||www.dft.gov.uk|
|Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, London, UK||www.lbhf.gov.uk
|City of Bristol, Bristol, UK||www.bristol-city.gov.uk
|Transport Research Laboratories, Berkshire, UK||www.trl.co.uk
|Oxfordshire County, Oxford, UK||www.oxfordshire.gov.uk
would like to particularly thank Paul Forman, Head of Investigations and Risk
Management, Transport Research Laboratories.
Paul was extremely helpful in providing advice and establishing contacts
with the UK hosts.
of public infrastructure accounts for a significant portion of local government
expenditure and a considerable risk in relation to public liability.
Information provided by Civic Mutual, Local Government insurers in the
State of Victoria, shows that footpath and road related claims constitute the
majority of claims for Local Government across Victoria.
high number of claims can possibly be attributed to a range of factors including
An increase in public awareness of litigation
A rise in public expectation of Council services
Deterioration in the condition of the local road
and footpath networks
High Court decisions in Australia have resulted in abolition of the long
standing “non feasance” immunity for accidents on roads and paths.
These decisions provide greater incentive for Local Government to develop
proactive risk management policies and procedures.
also needs to be recognised that Councils do not have unlimited resources and
that road and footpath networks cannot be maintained in perfect condition.
Processes therefore need to be established to identify risks, analyse
risks, treat or control risks and to monitor risks.
the United States being reported as being a litigious society and with the
general immunity of highway authorities from civil claims being withdrawn in
England in 1959, a study tour including these countries should prove to be most
section provides an overview of the government structures in each of the
countries visited, to assist in providing context, and outlines a broad summary
of the risk management findings.
in Canada has its roots in the British system and is therefore similar to
Australia. As well as the Federal
Government there are 10 Provinces (equivalent to our States).
Government operates under the framework of a Provincial Local Government Act.
Local Government provides similar services to those provided by local
government in Victoria with the addition of police and fire services.
Water supply and sewerage is generally managed on a regional basis, with
local government taking responsibility for the reticulated systems within their
Government has responsibility for Highways and provides a contribution to local
government for the maintenance of major regional roads.
Local Government income is largely drawn from property taxes (rates),
Provincial Government grants and development fees.
is a Provincial Occupiers Liability Act that requires the occupier of land,
whether that be local government or private, to keep the property in a safe
law still provides non feasance protection for road authorities, and the
community is quite litigious, possibly due to the USA influence.
The risk management approach adopted by the Councils visited was to
establish policy for programs and level of service and to undertake inspections
in accordance with the adopted policy. Programs
determined by policy as being a low priority are not included on a risk
management inspection program.
is apparent however that this creates a dilemma with respect to asset
management. If the risk management
policy dictates that inspections should not be undertaken for a class of asset,
any inspections undertaken for the purposes of developing an asset management
plan could compromise the Council’s non feasance protection.
my opinion this is detrimental to the proper management of the assets, as it
discourages the development of asset management plans and associated condition
audits necessary to develop a knowledge of how the assets are performing.
United States has Federal, State and Local Government with several tiers within
the local government framework.
Councils are responsible for a range of services to the community including
police, fire, libraries, roads, water supply, schools, social services, etc.
There are 24 County Councils in Washington State.
Councils are formed by the annexation of a portion of the County by plebiscite.
State law sets out the processes, and approval of the County is required. City Councils then provide the same range of services
provided by the County. Cities also
have community councils or voluntary neighbourhood associations that provide a
means of community consultation.
tax is collected by Counties and a portion distributed to the Cities within the
County. Other income is derived
from utility taxes and sales taxes, with sales tax being the largest revenue
source. A portion of the sales
taxes collected by the State Government is distributed to Local Government.
Government is quite autonomous in the US. The
Federal Government and State Governments provide some funds for specific
programs, but there is no controlling legislation such as exists in Australia
is renowned as being highly litigious and this view was reinforced on the tour.
Councils and Council officers are forever mindful of their exposure to
being sued for negligence. In fact
this is uppermost in their thinking. One
City Engineer advised that he has been personally sued on a number of occasions
as part of the “scattergun” approach generally employed by litigants.
laws vary and while one State on the tour had legislation to cap public
liability payouts, the other State did not have similar legislation.
It was apparent that the public liability cap provides a high level of
comfort to Highway Authorities within that particular State.
is a high emphasis on formal adoption and adherence to recognised design
standards as a means to minimise exposure to risk. There is also a very strong emphasis on recording,
inspecting, documenting and ensuring follow up on reported or noted
infrastructure defects. While this
is important it is a reactionary approach, that is heavily resourced. It is apparent that there is not a great deal of attention
paid to long term asset management planning, and it seems that the benefits of
asset management are not well recognised, including the risk management benefits
that would result from a well planned and comprehensive asset management plan.
in England consists of Central Government and traditionally three tiers of local
government. County Councils are
very large and deliver a broad range of services including education, public
housing, social services, transport and road maintenance, with budgets of up to
100 million pounds. They may be governed by up to 70 Councillors, often on party
Councils undertake a reduced range of services and may receive funding from the
County for specific service delivery. For
example a District Council may take on the responsibility for road maintenance,
with funding from the County.
Councils and Town councils are generally quite small and deliver a limited range
of services, with budgets of up to 500,000 pounds.
recent years there has been restructure of local government in some areas, with
the formation of Unitary Authorities. These
are formed by the merging of the District, Parish and Town Councils within a
County and then forming a number of regional unitary councils.
Government income is derived predominantly from Central Government grants,
property taxes and developer contributions.
In relation to road maintenance, Central Government grants account for
approximately 70% of the expenditure.
the UK the central governments of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have
produced a document “Delivering Best Value in Highway Maintenance – Code of
Practice for road management”. This
is a big step towards the development of uniform and consistent standards for
each of the adopted road classifications, and in turn provides a defence against
road related claims, if the national standards are adhered to.
Government is being encouraged by the Code to develop long term asset management
plans that include regular condition audits.
The code also encourages the development of risk management policies,
flowing on to the adoption of technical and operational standards.
is apparent that progressive Councils have been embracing this philosophy while
others are focussed on maintaining their central Government grants.
The approach by central Government should provide the benefit of an
overall improvement in asset management and risk management across the UK.
There is some risk that progressive and innovative Councils could be
disadvantaged, as a result of the needs based formula applied to the allocation
of additional road funding that Central Government has made available.
is an island city that is directly south of the City of Vancouver, with an area
of approximately 130 square kilometres. It
has a population of 165,000 with recent population growth attributable to Asian
immigration. The Asian population
is around one third of the total city population.
international airport is located in the City of Richmond resulting in airport
service and aviation industries. The Asian community has also added to the
small business and retail sector. The annual operating budget of the City
is around $166M.
City of Richmond has a vision to be the most appealing, liveable and well
managed community in Canada. The
corporate plan focuses on the key strategies of community safety, urban
infrastructure management, financial sustainability, community vibrancy, civic
beatification and design, service excellence, corporate leadership culture and
environmental sustainability. Cross
divisional strategy development project teams are formed around each core
strategy. Community consultation is
incorporated into the planning for new works and programs and volunteerism in
the City is quite high.
community is quite litigation conscious and risk management is incorporated into
the operational frameworks. Risk management is largely based on policy
development, inspection programs and insurance coverage.
is still operating under non feasance protection. The City of Richmond
establishes Council Policy for its programs and levels of service to be
has been acceptance from the courts that if the policy decisions are made on a
sound basis, including consideration of financial constraints, then this
provides an immunity from litigation.
programs are based around what is achievable, and if there is no funding for a
particular program, inspections will not be undertaken.
In these cases action will be reactionary, instigated from community
example there is a policy relating to sidewalk (footpath) repair that includes
the requirement for an inspection within 24 hours of notification, and for
repairs to be scheduled if the panel is out of alignment by more than ¾’’.
There is no timeframe for the repair but the policy includes a
requirement for temporary precautions such as barricades, warning signs or
temporary fills in the interim.
city self insures up to $1M and is covered with Municipal Insurers Association
up to $30M. The City works closely
with the insurers association and they will undertake risk assessments.
For example the association carried out an assessment on a newly
constructed BMX track and offered advice for safety improvements.
Canadian Standards association has developed standards for playgrounds, and the
City has determined that, from a risk perspective, it is important to maintain
these standards. This includes
monthly inspections and follow up works to maintain the playgrounds within the
City has a team of qualified legal professionals, who are heavily involved in
risk management. This fits well
with the corporate philosophy of a cross functional team approach.
has a population of 350,000 and is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada,
with an area of 300 square kilometres. It
takes pride in its parks, with around 400 parks in the City.
It is a gateway to the US being located on the border.
Approximately one third of the land area is utilised for agriculture and
the City aims to retain this as well as promote business development to support
the growing population.
City has not increased rates for 9 years and has not borrowed funds for 20
years. Capital improvements are
funded solely from developer levies, so planned development is actively sought
adopts similar principles to Richmond in risk management. It has found that if
it can demonstrate due diligence in the establishment of policies to minimise
risk, this is a legal defence.
significant difference in approach is that Surrey undertakes a comprehensive
inspection program on its roads and paths.
This is related to a pavement management system that has been in place
for the past 10 years. The City has
determined that it could be considered unreasonable to reduce or cease the
inspection program, and thus would leave itself exposed to greater risk of
with Richmond, risk management in Surrey is a high priority and five solicitors
are employed by the City in a risk management unit. They effectively operate on a consultancy basis to
operational divisions. A quarterly
employee newsletter called “Riskwatch” is produced, that reports on claims
trends and raises staff awareness of risk management issues.
is an overarching Council policy that “The city does not accept responsibility
for a claim unless it is the judgement of risk management and/or legal staff
that the City would be held legally responsible for the injury or damage”.
the past 10 years only about 15% of submitted claims have resulted in a payment.
As with Richmond, Surrey is self insured up to the first $1M and in the
past 10 years there have been no insurable losses in public liability, and the
annual premiums are currently at their lowest level.
risk management unit places emphasis on “who controls the activity bears the
risk”. For large contracts the
documentation puts the risk on the contractor, whereas for small subcontracts
under direct supervision the Council will continue to bear the risk.
management is given consideration in the development of Council strategies.
For example a tree hazard management strategy is incorporated in the
“Natural areas: access and recreation” strategy.
The document highlights that tree failures and incidents are the third
highest cause of claims after roads and drainage claims.
The document states that the primary strategic direction for managing
tree hazards, is to provide for safe use, reduced corporate liability and
increased benefits to natural area ecosystems.
It then goes on to make a series of operational recommendations to
City is placing a greater emphasis on working with service clubs and community
organisations to become involved in areas such as park development and
maintenance. Initially this was
instigated to value add to the limited resources that the Council could provide.
It is also having the benefit of community ownership and pride, a
changing of attitude towards criticism of Council, and a softening of the
is located in greater Seattle, 20 miles east of downtown Seattle, with an area
of 17 square miles. It has a
population of 50,000 and has experienced significant population growth since
1983 with the establishment of Microsoft. The City offers a high quality
lifestyle with 42 schools, a range of parks and relatively modern
City has developed on the technology industry with Microsoft, Nintendo and
AT&T Wireless being some of the larger industries located in the City.
The annual budget of the City is around $355M.
United States does not have non feasance immunity; has always been in a
situation of risk liability; and nobody has immunity from prosecution.
Council officers have been personally sued on a number of occasions, and
in these instances the municipality does support them.
Risk management is therefore at the forefront of all activities.
risk management approach taken by Redmond is essentially to apply reasonable
standards and to establish Council policy in relation to the standards.
Where appropriate national or state standards exist these are adopted and
supplemented by municipal standards where necessary.
States, such as Colorado, have enacted legislation to limit the payment on a
claim made against the state or a local authority. However this does not apply in the State of Washington.
law in Washington is such that if a party is found to be only partially
negligent, even as low as 1%, it can still bear the full cost if the other
parties are unable to pay.
City has a self managed public liability insurance program in conjunction with
other municipalities to cover claims up to $100,000. Claims for trips and falls on sidewalks is increasing due to
the impact of street trees. This
has resulted in a program of grinding joints and undertaking temporary patches,
as there are insufficient funds to replace all of these paths.
are generally settled out of court rather than the risks associated with taking
them to a jury court. An
interesting concept employed for serious claims is one of mock trials.
These can cost in the order of $25,000 with a number of mock juries
engaged to test the likely verdict if the case was to proceed to court. A more
informed decision can then be made on whether to proceed to court or to settle
out of court.
is another City in greater Seattle. The City promotes its high quality lifestyle
and has frontage to Lake Washington. Business
is predominantly made up of small businesses, light industrial and technology.
The total budget for the City is around $141M.
was incorporated in 1905 with an area of one square mile and a population of
530. Since then it has grown in
geographic size to 11 square miles through consolidations and annexation, with a
current population of 46,000.
with Redmond, risk management is high on the agenda. Risks are identified and programs are developed to minimise
the risks, within budgetary constraints. The
concept of “notice” is important. If
a problem is noted or advised then it is imperative to do something about it.
City places an emphasis on developing inventories of assets, together with
condition ratings. Sidewalks were
identified as being an issue due to complaints from citizens.
The City carried out an inventory and identified that a budget of
$150,000 per annum would be required to upgrade the paths, with a grinding and
replacement program. This was beyond the capacity of the City to fund and an
allocation of $30,000 was made that is proposed to be reduced next year.
The claims are generally minor and the defence to be used will be that
the City has other higher priority funding requirements.
will therefore revert to a reactionary program, where complaints are addressed
on an individual basis. The City
maintains very detailed records of complaints, and inspections and all follow up
action is very well documented. This
is imperative in order to defend a possible future claim.
There is a three year statute of limitation for people to file a lawsuit.
City has adopted the national “Manual of uniform traffic control devices”
and applies this diligently in street design, as it is the recognised national
American Disabilities Act has been recently enacted by the Federal Government.
This Act fundamentally requires progress towards enabling the disabled to
be able to travel unimpeded. It is
becoming a significant driver on the capital works programs for roads and paths.
is part of greater Kansas City with a population of 120,000 and an area of 78
square miles. The Santa Fe, Oregon
and California wagon trails originated in Independence, so the area has a rich
history. It was also the home of
President Harry Truman and a museum has been constructed to commemorate his
City is approximately 150 years old and the infrastructure in the older section
of the City is in disrepair. No
taxes had been raised by the City for 25 years.
In 1998, through a community consultation process, agreement was reached
to impose a sales tax to upgrade the streets and parks over a five year period.
This program, now in its fourth year, is showing the benefits.
This contributed to the city being selected as an “All American City”
located in the heart of America the city is at the crossroads of major
transportation connections. The
annual budget of the City is $185M.
City of Independence approach to risk management is to adopt uniform, recognised
standards, to develop comprehensive records of infrastructure and to have a
fully documented follow up system to complaints.
There is also State legislation in Missouri that limits public liability
claims to $100,000.
addition the State of Missouri has a law of sovereign immunity that in 1977 was
amended to bring in exceptions that resulted in the following current situation.
City is liable for injuries on it’s property if, and only if, the property was
in a dangerous condition which was caused by a City employee or about which the
City knew or should have known, and the dangerous condition was such that it
would cause an injury of the type suffered and did directly cause the injury
vs City of Independence, 1996. While driving, Williams crossed the centre line
down the wrong side of the road, through several yards and hit a culvert
headwall eight feet off the road. City
liable? No. Injury not foreseeable.
Therefore no duty to warn.
Feely vs City of St. Lois, 1995. Branch fell from tree in park, crushing parked car and killing boy. Tree’s decaying condition should have reasonably been apparent to the City. Constructive knowledge of danger.
vs Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis, 1994. Child trips on crack on concrete sewer channel and drowns.
Liability? No defect in the
channel, no liability.
key to avoidance of liability is prompt remediation of dangerous conditions.
Department for Transport is one of 150 Highway Authorities in England and is
responsible for setting the standards and maintaining the 10,000 km of motorways
and trunk roads. The other 149 highway authorities, being local government
authorities, are responsible for setting the standards and maintaining the
270,000 km of local roads.
should be noted that in England the terminology of “highway” applies to all
roads, including motorways, trunk roads and local roads.
41 of the Highways Act 1980 places a duty upon all Highway Authorities to
maintain the highways for which they are responsible. The
act also provides a defence for highway authorities in an action against them
for failing to maintain a highway if they can prove that they had taken
reasonable care to ensure that the highway was not dangerous for traffic.
2001 the Department for Transport, in partnership with the governments of
Scotland, Ireland, Wales and local government associations developed a document
“Delivering Best Value in Highway Maintenance - Code of practice for
maintenance management”. The code
is intended for use by all highway authorities in the United Kingdom.
suggested recommendations of the code are not mandatory on authorities.
Authorities however have certain legal obligations with which they need
to comply, and which will, on occasions, be the subject of claims or legal
action by those seeking to establish non compliance by authorities, and the
contents of the code may be considered to be a relevant consideration.
In these circumstances where authorities elect in the light of local
circumstances to adopt policies, procedures or standards differing from those
suggested by the code, it is essential that they be identified, together with
the reasoning for the differences.
code of practice is essentially providing a uniform guide for the whole of the
United Kingdom, and if adopted and adhered to by highway authorities, would
provide consistency of standards for highway users and a defence against road
of the key objectives of the code is to encourage the adoption and regular
review of a risk management regime in the determination of local technical and
well as introducing the code, the Department for Transport is also facilitating
a national road condition survey. This
has been achieved to date on a sample basis for all classes of road, and two
years ago it was determined that the local road network was in the worst
condition for 30 years. To address
this the government has allocated 31 billion pounds over a ten year period,
which is an increase in road funding of 47 % compared to the previous 10 years.
The additional funds are to be allocated on the basis of need.
rationale is to bring the road network up to a reasonable standard, thus
minimising ongoing maintenance costs, with a secondary benefit being reduced
risk as a result of the improved condition.
is also proposed that by 2006 Treasury will require all highway authorities to
value the roads and to make provision in their budgets for deterioration.
has been noted in the UK that fraudulent claims is on the increase, society is
becoming more litigious and that lawyers are becoming more active in attracting
London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is one of 33 local unitary authorities
in the Greater London area. It is
quite small in area being only 6 square miles, but densely populated with a
population of 150,000. Approximately
8,000 businesses are located in the borough and the municipality is one of the
largest employers, with a staff of around 6,500.
Borough has full statutory authority for the delivery of education, social
services, public housing, environmental and technical services. The borough owns
approximately 25% of the housing within the municipality.
a Highway Authority the Borough is responsible by statute for all of the roads
in the Borough with the exception of the A4 and A40 arterial roads.
The total annual budget of the Borough is 450 million pounds.
Council includes 16 wards with two or three Councillors per ward.
There are a total of 46 Councillors who are elected on party lines, with
28 being labour aligned and 18 being conservative aligned.
Thus Labour holds the majority and controls the Council.
Around three years ago the Council moved to a cabinet system whereby the
controlling party elects a leader and five deputies, who have the authority to
full Council meets approximately five times per year but doesn’t set policy.
Scrutiny panels of Councillors are also established with particular
portfolios, each serviced by a senior officer.
These panels are able to provide advice and scrutinise decisions of
Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has for the past eight years been developing
policy, processes and work procedures for highway maintenance, with risk
management being incorporated into the documentation. The Borough has adopted
the Code of Practice for Highway Management as this fits within their processes.
conjunction with this the Borough undertakes a detailed investigation and
analysis of all claims and defends those that it believes are defensible.
This has resulted in a reduced number of spurious claims.
relating to pedestrians rather than vehicles are more significant due the very
high pedestrian volumes in the Borough. For
example the underground station of Hammersmith has a throughput of approximately
100,000 pedestrian per day.
Borough has in recent times instigated a sidewalk inspection program and has
instigated agreements with service authorities in relation to issues within
their area of responsibility, such as uneven pit surrounds.
City is a unitary Council that was established in 1994 with the abolition of the
County of Avon and creation of four unitary authorities, with Bristol City being
one of these four. Bristol City has
a population of 400,000.
City has statutory authority for services including education, public housing,
social services, environment, transport and leisure.
City has responsibility for all roads within the municipality other than
motorways and trunk roads, which come under the jurisdiction of the Department
City consists of 35 wards with two Councillors elected in each ward.
The labour party has the majority and has elected the seven member
Executive (Cabinet) that has decision making power.
accepts the principles of the code of practice for highway maintenance, however
has issue with the Department for Transport proposal to make a determination on
the road network condition by means of deflectographs.
Experience in the City has shown that failures are predominantly top down
and the City places a heavy emphasis on periodic maintenance, with a
comprehensive road reseal program. The
City also spreads its budget further by means of sprayed seals rather than
asphalt overlays, which is uncommon in urban situations in England.
with a maintenance program to maintain the network in reasonable condition the
City provides training to staff to avoid situations leading to potential
City undertakes a detailed investigation and prepares a comprehensive report on
all claims. Where it is considered
that negligence does not apply the claim is strongly defended.
This has resulted in a reduction of payouts in recent years.
is apparent that there is concern that the innovation being shown by Bristol is
not being recognised by Central Government, and that it will limit their funding
opportunities to attract the additional funding that has been made available on
a needs basis.
City is in quite a strong financial position and realises that other Councils
require more Government assistance. However,
I think it is important for Government to recognise good performance and to
develop a process for sharing of innovative practices.
is an internationally recognised centre providing research, advice and solutions
across the world for issues relating to land transport.
Paul Forman heads the investigations and risk management group that
provides advice to a range of organisations and authorities, including Highway
group undertakes accident investigations utilising experts in human behaviour,
vehicles and highways. This information can then be utilised to provide advice
on policy and system improvements.
Management - TRL
advice to highway authorities is to fulfil their generic duty to maintain
highways in accordance with section 41 of the Highways Act, as failure to do so
leaves the authority vulnerable to claims arising from members of the public
alleging that the failure to maintain is linked to the cause and severity of the
accident. There is a requirement on
the claimant to connect the accident with this duty.
58 of the Highway Act provides a special defence if the highway authority is
able to demonstrate that it had taken “reasonable” measures in maintaining
the highway. Record keeping is thus
absolutely crucial, as good records provide the building blocks for the defence
of a claim.
can be argued by:
Demonstrating that you have sound policies
Management systems capable of delivering policy
Developed systems being applied
Decision makers making reasonable decisions
Decisions appropriately implemented
and surveys are important, as you “ought to have known”.
Highway Engineers are paid experts and must make themselves aware of the
condition of the assets. Lack of money is no defence in civil cases, so if funds do
not allow the repair to be undertaken, other measures such as interim warnings
and/or temporary repairs to make the condition safe must be employed.
main areas of vulnerability for Highway Authorities in relation to risk
Setting over ambitious policies
Inconsistency in achieving policies
Being unable to demonstrate robust and rational
prioritisation for works (this is fundamental)
Failure to use prior knowledge
Advising the workforce not to spot defects
Spending on discretionary powers rather than
County Council has a population of 630,000.
It is home to Oxford University that was established in the eleventh
century, and today has a student population of around 100,000.
Oxfordshire has a range of industries including tourism, vehicle
manufacturing, with BMW manufacturing the Mini, high technology, medical and
biotechnology. Approximately two
thirds of the land area is devoted to agriculture and the Counties planning
strategy aims to retain the agricultural base.
The County is a significant employer with 16,000 employees.
County has 70 wards with a single Councillor representative from each ward. The
Councillors are elected on party lines and the current make up is Conservative
– 26, Liberal democrat – 19, labour – 24, green – 1. A cabinet, or executive, of nine members is elected from the
conservative/liberal democrat factions, who are in the majority, and this
executive has authority for establishing policy. Decisions of the executive can be reviewed by five scrutiny
operates under the traditional local government model and there are five
District Councils and 317 Town and Parish Councils within the boundaries of
Oxfordshire County, each with their own elected representatives.
District Councils generally have responsibility for functions such as
environmental health, housing, leisure & recreation, planning applications
and waste collection.
annual expenditure of Oxfordshire County is 405 million pounds.
Income is derived predominantly from Council property rates and business
rates, Central Government support grant and other specific government grants.
The Council rates are distributed on a proportional basis to the County,
District, Town and Parish Councils. Oxfordshire
County has responsibility for all local roads in the County except those in the
Oxford City District.
has developed a policy manual for highway maintenance and is developing
processes and practices to accord with the code of practice. This is the third
version of the code, which is less prescriptive and provides highway authorities
more tolerance to establish standards that reflect their particular region or
recent years highway funding has come under pressure from other funding
priorities and particularly social services and education. It has been necessary
to cease maintenance on some minor roads and to place appropriate signage
warning motorists of the deteriorating condition.
had been neglected for many years and an analysis was carried out and report
prepared indicating a substantial cost to bring the paths up to a reasonable
standard. A decision was made not
to spend this money as there were higher priorities for funding and the risk was
determined as being low.
code of practice provides sufficient flexibility for highway authorities to make
these decisions as part of their policy development.
The risk was assessed as being low due to the low claims history.
It seems that the community has accepted the deteriorating condition of
the paths, which has been occurring over a long period of time.
believe that the approach is short sighted and highlights the focus on risk
management to the detriment of asset management. The development of an asset management plan for the footpath
network, with community input, could determine the needs based on usage,
linkages, growth, etc; identify what paths could be retired; the need for new
paths; a prioritised long term rehabilitation plan, etc.
This would also result in risk management being addressed in a more
legislative framework varies in each of the countries visited, and in the USA
there can be significant variations from State to State.
Risk management is a high priority in all authorities visited.
of the key actions taken by authorities to minimise public risk in the
management of infrastructure include:
Incorporate risk management into the Council’s
strategic plans and corporate plans.
Develop sound, achievable policy that is linked to
the organisation’s strategic plan.
Ensure funding priority is given to absolute duties
before spending on discretionary items.
Ensure that management systems and processes are
capable of delivering on policy.
Develop operational frameworks and procedures that
Demonstrate that prioritisation of works is based
on adopted policy.
Maintain a detailed inventory of the assets and
knowledge of the asset condition.
Develop and diligently implement processes to
inspect and report on notified issues, including all action taken to make safe
Ensure prompt remediation of unsafe conditions.
is apparent that the Victorian State Government is proposing a similar model to
that in place in the UK. The Bracks
Government has recently announced that it will be invoking the Transport
(Highway immunity) Bill to temporarily reinstate the “highway immunity rule”
to protect Councils and other road authorities from claims for damage from road
users. Another bill to cap general
damages payouts will also be introduced, legislation that is in place in a
number of American States.
State Government will then, in partnership with the MAV and Local Government,
develop a new road management framework. This
will include the development of statewide principles for road management and the
requirement for Councils to develop road management plans to address road
classifications and maintenance & repair of roads, taking into account local
needs and resources.
on the limited experience in the UK, with a similar framework, it is expected
that the benefits of this model would include:
Development of consistency in road classifications
and in road standards for the respective classifications, whilst retaining
reasonable diversity consistent with local choice.
Consistency in approach to collection, processing
and recording of road inventory and condition information.
Development of regular reviews of policies for road
maintenance and of the risk management regime in the determination of local
technical and operational standards.
UK code is founded on the key principles of “Best Value”, being that
services should be based on the needs of users and the community, rather than
the convenience of the service provider.
is apparent, from the authorities visited, that risk management is not
necessarily linked to asset management, and that the advantages of developing a
comprehensive long term asset management plan are not well recognised.
Approaches are generally based on establishing policy, processes and
procedures to minimise exposure to risk.
authorities indicated that more funds are required to adequately maintain their
infrastructure, however there are strong competing demands for funds in areas
such as social services, health, education, etc, which is no different to what
we face in Australia.
Engineers responsible for the management of the community assets we have a
responsibility to ensure that these assts are managed effectively now and into
believe that the non feasance immunity, while providing some protection from
litigation, has not been conducive to proper forward planning in relation to
road infrastructure, and has allowed policy makers the discretionary right to
divert necessary funds to other programs. We
should not be lulled into a reliance on the Victorian Government proposal to
temporarily reinstate non feasance protection.
opportunity is with road authority Engineers across the State to take a
proactive approach to educating the public and politicians on the real needs for
our road infrastructure.
can be achieved by Local Government working with the MAV and State Government to
develop comprehensive asset management plans for their respective road networks.
By working together uniformity can be achieved in relation to road
classifications, maintenance standards, condition audits, etc.
Local Government is prepared to embrace this on a united basis, rather than
treating it as a minimalistic exercise to satisfy State Government legislation,
the benefits could be quite significant. Road
authorities will have documented plans of their road assets that demonstrate the
long term maintenance needs. This
can be communicated, along with the funding requirements, to the public and to
politicians, based on factual information and well researched analysis, rather
my opinion the implementation of asset management plans will clearly result in
an improved risk management regime on a more sustainable long term basis.
short, the current situation has provided an opportunity for road authority
Engineers to work cooperatively with State Government, and to influence the
outcomes of the long term management of our road systems.