Highways England (previously the Highways Agency) is the government-owned company responsible for operating, maintaining and improving the strategic road network (including the motorway and majority of the trunk road network) in England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport (the similar routes in Scotland, Wales and London are devolved to the regional assemblies).
They also provide a small number of rest area facilities (filling gaps or former gaps in the coverage of service areas). These will be provided in association with the concessionaire who have the contract for the maintenance and sometimes the development of the road in question. As well as providing the small rest-areas the Highway Agency also own 21 motorway service area sites, generally the earlier ones, on behalf of the government, which it then leases to the operators on a long term lease arrangement.
Work With Operators
As part of their responsibilities the Highways Agency created and manage the MSA Policy for England on behalf of the Department for Transport, and as such they have, in the past, made calls for the new services to be introduced. They have to be consulted on all major changes at services in England.
They also work with developers during the construction and closure of service stations, especially if new signs are needed. Although they oversee the maintenance of their roads, approved contractors can make changes to road signs on behalf of an operator provided Highways England are informed. This allowed operators to frequently change their headerboards without inconveniencing the HA.
The Highways Agency worked with the operators to provide interactive traffic information. Briefly, they published a guide to truckstop cafés in England, which included details of a small number of motorway services.
In 1969, the Motorway Service Area Branch (MSAB) was established to take the responsibility for identifying and regulating motorway service stations, on behalf of the Ministry of Transport (later the Department of the Environment/Department for Transport). In 1982 they merged with the Highways Lands and Services Division, and in 1991 fell under the new Highways Agency, who three years later spun it off into their Network General and Maintenance Division.
Although the Highways Agency's contribution has only ever really been to comment on the suitability of proposed new service areas, with other matters being decided locally, they also dictate what is worthy of being signed from their property using a policy. A 2010 study into service stations admitted that they maintained no list of the MSAs or TRSAs they regulated, and instead had to go about this study using a combination of this website, Google Earth, and by driving the length of their road network!
Highways England-owned sites
The following services are suspected to be owned by Highways England and leased out:
- Leicester Forest East (M1)
- London Gateway (M1)
- Membury (M4)
- Michaelwood (M5)
- Trowell (M1)
- Watford Gap (M1)
Operated Rest Areas
Highays England do operate the following rest areas, picnic areas and lay-bys: