Our managing director Matthew Pryor discusses in Transport Professional investment in highways and devolution:

Surfacing firm welcomes city devolution focus

Elected mayors bring the promise of greater highway investment and not able improvements in road condition through major cities, the chief executive of a fast growing surfacing contractor has suggested. Matthew Pryor of Toppesfield welcomes the prospect of London’s model of governance being repeated in other major cities, as set out by the Chancellor George Osbourne last month. “Government is talking about there being a Manchester mayor; someone who can champion the city along with transport investment and control what goes on,” Mr Pryor said. “Having a mayor has worked well for highways in London and there is no reason it can’t work in other cities either, such as Leeds. ”But while he supports the move towards city mayors Mr Pryor thinks the new Government has to look again at how far ahead it plans major national highway works programmes. “Government has set out its agenda for the next five years but the industry needs a rolling programme of investment and a planned strategy beyond that,” he said. “We want to see a longer term plan for the next 10 years.” Mr Pryor added that more ambitious long term plans would encourage the supply chain to buy new equipment and recruit employees. “We want to give those coming into the industry a secure future, beyond that a five year plan can offer, otherwise they may decide to work in other sectors.” One pressing issue the highways sector now needs to address, he added, is to make sure that the process of selecting contractors for major highway works becomes as streamlined as possible. Contractors which secured places on Highways England’s new Collaborative Delivery Framework, for instance, complete a “rigorous and time intensive” process in order to qualify based on the quality of their service provision, he said. “Given this, it is vital that on a project specific level duplication of work is minimised and the supply chain works together to quickly and efficiently deliver Highways England’s target outcomes.” He suggests that representatives from the highway supply chain, including surfacing contractors, be involved in roundtable forums to discuss ideas for delivering quality outcomes and good value. Toppesfield started trading 11years ago laying asphalt for developers in the South East and has gone on to provide surfacing on major motorway schemes such as the M1 at Catthorpe. This month it begins road surfacing activities in Birmingham on behalf of the city’s PFI contractor Amey, having heard that it won the contract only two weeks previously. “Rather than parachuting people in from elsewhere, we have built a team of managers and operatives who live close to Birmingham, understand the local roads and will take pride in their involvement in improving their local area” Mr Pryor said. “We moved quickly when we heard we won the contract on 14 May to ensure we had an experienced and capable team in place to commence delivery in June.”

This article first appeared in the print edition of Transportation Professional in June 2015.