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Highways Agency project criticised by MPs

Rebecca Thomson

The procurement process for the Highways Agency's motorway communications system is three years late and five times over-budget, a group of influential MPs said today.

The system, called the National Road Telecommunications Service, aims to give drivers real-time information about traffic jams and delays.

The Public Accounts Committee criticised the agency for the delays and overruns but praised it for transferring risk to the private sector and delivering the project itself on time.

The committee blamed the lack of control over external advisors for the procurement overruns. Advisors cost the agency £15m, five times more than expected, and the procurement process dragged on for five years instead of the planned two.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the committee of public accounts, said, "Public bodies taking forward projects as large and complex as this should learn lessons from the lack of effective control which the Highways Agency exercised over its external advisors."

The committee recommended that the Agency conducts a review half way through the contract's 10 and a half-year life.

It added that the Agency's choice of a public-private partnership was justified because it transferred the risks of cost and time overruns to the private sector.


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