"We're on schedule, in the round," says Highways England boss

Delivery of government's £13bn, five-year, Roads Investment Strategy (RIS1) for motorways and trunks roads is on track, says Highways England's chief executive Jim O'Sullivan. Speaking to Infrastructure Intelligence at Highways UK at the NEC this week, O'Sullivan said: "We've made great progress. The industry is doing a good job with delivery of the programme."

He acknowledged, however, that his progress report is for an overall portfolio of some 113 schemes. "We're on schedule, in the round," he said. "There can be a tendency for just one or two late running projects to get the attention and become the means to pillory the whole picture. We are going to deliver the overall RIS1 programme on time.

"Remember, we're only a year and a half into existence, but already we've delivered £150m of efficiency savings, four to five times bigger than last year. And we've taken on 51 graduates and 35 apprentices – double last year's intake. We're making good progress," O'Sullivan added.

Work on RIS1 has started to ramp up this year and will increase again in 2017/18. On capability and capacity within the supply chain, "they are there", O'Sullivan said, although there are concerns. "It's getting the preparatory work done, the planning and statutory procedures cleared, quickly enough, that's the pinchpoint."

A further crucial message from Highways England to its supply chain and stakeholders this week, is the importance of engagement now for forming the first draft of RIS2 for initial submission to government. The spend profile for Highways England's second investment programme is expected to be around £20bn evened out over five years from 2020-2025. "The first draft will be submitted around the middle of 2017 and it will then be a very iterative process towards sign-off in 2019, which I welcome. We need proposals out there to get the dialogue going."

Highways England is represented at the Highways UK event in strength this week as the government owned company works to establish and maintain visible engaagement with its supply chain. The HE's head of strategic supplier development is David O'Neil. He said: "Among our key messages this week, is this: We have a challenging investment programme to deliver, so we have got to move on in terms of performance. We want to work more closely with our tier two and three suppliers because it is through them that a lot of the extra value can be found.

"We already getting some good traction on some areas, such as affecting changes to pavement design and construction for greater productivity and sustainability and reducing disruption and costs. We're challenging the supply chain and it's bringing results."