Keystone’s Steven Conway, who specialises in claims against highway authorities, worked with the Department for Transport on its recent review of the updated Code of Practice. In this Keynote, he examines the changes and their legal implications.

The legal perspective is very important given that the code may be a relevant consideration when looking at the legal obligations of authorities. The expectation is that courts will look upon the code as evidence of good practice.

Introduction of a risk based approach is the biggest change to the code from a legal perspective, according to Steven. He says that highway authorities are going to have to ensure that those tasked with devising their highways policies have been properly trained in relation to risk assessment.

“I expect we are going to see an increase in the scrutiny of the competence and training of highways inspectors and the decisions they make on the ground,” he says. “The records they make of their decisions will become even more important.”

Authorities are encouraged to collaborate to determine levels of service in the revised code, especially across boundaries with neighbours responsible for strategic and local highway networks.

“I can see criticism being made of authorities whose policies are out of step with similar or neighbouring authorities,” Steven says. “They may have a more difficult time justifying the criteria in their policies unless they are properly backed by a rigorous decision making process which has been properly evidenced.”

Another significant change is the introduction of the concept of affordability in relation to the general principle that authorities will adopt a risk based approach in accordance with local needs, priorities and affordability. The issue of affordability will be tested by the courts in the future.

In conclusion he says of the update: “The risk based approach – if properly followed – should enable highway authorities to be able to defend more claims than previously.”

This article was written for and first published by UK Roads Liason Group…

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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.