My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
In June 2003, the then Secretary of State for Transport committed the Government to establishing the traffic officer service on England’s motorways, reflecting the Highways Agency’s change of focus to become a network operator. Since then, the service has been rolled out in phases across the motorway network, supported by a strong partnership with the police. The Highways Agency has recently reported on the progress made during the period from April 2006 to March 2007. I am pleased to report that the agency has now completed the full transfer of traffic management functions from the police and the traffic officer service is now fully operational.
Starting in April 2004, the traffic officer service has developed from the initial pilot in the West Midlands to a position where it is performing the full range of traffic management functions formerly undertaken exclusively by the police. The agreement with all 39 police forces that routine traffic management functions are now fully transferred to the agency, leaving the police to focus on criminal activity, is the final milestone in establishing the service.
The traffic officer service is providing a valuable service to the public. Traffic officers are now clearing incidents more quickly, reducing the impact of incident-related congestion and reducing the risk of secondary incidents. There is increasing recognition of the service by road users and their experience of the service is very positive.
Information gathered from the police confirms that the service is enabling the police to redeploy resources on to core policing activities, and they are attending fewer minor incidents.
Now that the traffic officer service is fully established, the agency will measure the effectiveness of the service through a performance framework and will publish the results in its annual report. The performance framework will be kept under review to ensure that the measures used are appropriate and support the objectives of the agency to provide a safe and reliable strategic road network.