Adopting a Standardised Approach to Highways asset Management Resilience

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Standardized Approach to Risk Management such as PAS 55 and ISO 55000 bring consistency and transparency and help asset-owning organizations manage their assets safely and efficiently.

Use of a standardised asset management model allows organisations to take a logical approach to improve their highway resilience and performance. Highways England (formerly the U.K. Highways Agency)1 is demanding network resilience and asset management governance from its highway maintenance service providers through the use of PAS 55, British Standards Institution’s publicly available specification for the optimised management of physical assets, and the agency’s Network Management Manual.


The safe and free-flowing operation of England’s strategic road network is vital to the U.K. and Europe’s economy. It forms the backbone to regional, national, and international trade and provides a daily commute for millions of road users. To enable the road network to consistently perform to expected service levels during planned and unplanned incidents, including severe weather, a highly developed level of contingency planning - based on good asset data, historic and predictable dynamic information (traffic, accidents, and meteorology), and organisational competence - is required. All this needs to be managed within an effective operational model.

Introducing a Standardised Approach to Manage Asset Resilience

Increasingly, asset-owning organisations see the benefit of using a standardised approach to their asset management models, such as the Institute of Asset Management’s PAS 55 specification published in 2008 or the recently published ISO 55000. The ISO standard expands the definition of assets and lifecycle activities and the value they bring to an organisation and its stakeholders. Introducing a formalised governance mechanism allows asset owners to create a consistent network performance approach, including resilience to external factors such as severe weather.

Organisations aspiring to PAS 55 accreditation are assessed against a generic set of requirements and given a maturity level of competence (from 0 to 4) which indicates the organization’s asset management capability across the various elements of PAS 55. Parsons Brinckerhoff, now part of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, is accredited as an Endorsed Assessor to PAS 55 and is part of the ISO 55000 pilot scheme being operated by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

PAS 55:2008 Management System StructureFigure 1 – PAS 55:2008 Management System Structure
(source: Figure 6 Structure of PAS 55-1:2008) (adapted from PAS 99:2006)

The PAS 55 and ISO 55000 models include the requirement for an organisation to show how it deals with emergency and incident response needs and both models include contingency planning as a key element in the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) traditional improvement cycle (see Figure 1). For example, highway maintenance operators need to demonstrate their competence in considering potential emergencies arising from significant failure of critical assets or extreme weather conditions, which could result in traffic disruption or hazardous driving conditions. Highways England uses the Met Office definitions for severe weather which include: heavy snow (more than 2 centimetres per hour of snow for at least 2 hours) and severe gales (repeated gusts of 70 miles per hour). Operators also need to consider the effects of incidents not only on their network but on adjacent networks and have a robust contingency plan and incident response plan in place to address both the immediate consequences and the restoration of safe traffic routes.

risk categorization chart designing buildings future climateTypical Incident Response Escalation Process for U.K. Strategic Road Operator
Figure 2 – Escalation Plan

The case for asset owners adopting standardised asset management models to manage network resilience should be based on understanding the drivers, identifying the implications and benefits of standardisation on an organisation, and proving how such models help to realise practical benefits, including assuring network performance during critical incidents.

It is important for asset-owning organisations and their extended supply chain to have a contingency plan that demonstrates a ‘line of sight’ across their organisational strategy, objectives, and other operational plans. Key to this is the interface with relevant stakeholders such as emergency services and authorities providing mutual aid. The contingency plan should be able to adequately identify and respond to incidents and emergency situations and maintain the continuity of critical asset management activities.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s PAS 55 and ISO 55000 Experience

As a PAS 55 Endorsed Assessor with the Institute of Asset Management, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has been supporting road operators since 2008. We have helped Highways England and local highway authorities with the adoption and accreditation of two contracts to PAS 55 maturity level 3 competence2; the first contracts to achieve this in England. Important to this process was our in-depth experience and understanding of the highways maintenance sector, including network resilience models and contingency planning.

In 2012 Highways England decided to introduce PAS 55 as a governance tool in its new Asset Support Contract, using outcome instead of output based requirements to achieve minimum target service levels at an acceptable cost. The model introduced integrated asset management requirements and required the service provider to change the way it delivered network maintenance renewals and improvements. A system model such as PAS 55 was therefore important to define operational outcomes, risk-based approaches to asset management decision-making, people competency requirements, and asset data criticality and management.

Developing an Effective Contingency Plan and Incident response Plan

A requirement of the PAS 55 system is for an organization to have a contingency plan and an incident response plan (IRP). In an operational road context, an effective contingency plan describes how the service provider will escalate an incident response from operational (bronze) to tactical (silver) and strategic (gold) command3 when required based on whether an incident is categorised as critical or major. It is specific to that highway network although it does recognise adjoining boundary road networks and the provision of mutual aid. The contingency plan includes escalation procedures, diversion routes, and other stakeholder information (see Figure 2).

In the U.K., Highways England is classed as a Category 2 Responder under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (CCA 2004) which establishes a clear set of roles and responsibilities for those involved in emergency preparation and response. Maintenance providers working for Highways England carry out these responsibilities when they are involved with any ‘incident’ that adversely affects or disrupts the normal operation and availability of the strategic road network. These incidents may include: major accidents involving vehicles and/or pedestrians, criminal or terrorist threats/activity, demonstrations and other events, and natural hazards such as severe weather.

The incident response plan complements and expands on information within the contingency plan and, together with an emergency diversion route document, defines the resilience response of the network operator. This is confirmed as part of the operator’s PAS 55 model.

The Benefits of Standardisation Models to Highways Resilience

The successful adoption of an asset management system such as PAS 55 requires delivery organisations to ‘think and embed’ asset management culture and demonstrate ‘line of sight’ between resilience policy and outcomes. This includes in their incident response and maintenance regimes, using practical command and control techniques and escalation procedures, such as for severe weather and traffic incidents. As part of the model, contingency plans are assessed to ensure consistency of response to incident management and emergency situations. PAS 55 and ISO 55000 also bring:

  • Increased confidence with asset data, asset lifecycle plans, and planning processes to consistently deliver asset schemes;
  • A fully documented holistic asset management system including organisational competencies and accountabilities (a key to demonstrating the organisation is ‘best in class’);
  • Clarity of objectives and improved staff motivation;
  • Intelligence-led decision-making to improve asset performance, minimise asset deterioration and risk, and add value and resilience;
  • Strengthened business cases for long-term funding; and
  • Benchmarking opportunities.

The asset management maturity journey, which PAS 55 advocates, promotes refinement of a road operator’s contingency plans and actions to improve maturity level ‘gaps’. In addition to process effectiveness, organisations can identify competency-based training needs and cultural embedment opportunities to reinforce the importance of a resilient network.


It is vital that road networks remain resilient to preserve the benefits they bring to communities and economies and to ensure that risks to the public and safety of road workers are effectively addressed. In order to determine which incidents and emergencies to consider as part of a resilience model many organisations are using risk management and scenario planning. PAS 55 and ISO 55000 offer asset owners a standardised approach to enhance their resilience models and that of their road operators, bringing greater consistency and transparency.

Achieving PAS 55 accreditation does not bring guarantees in the same way that ISO 9000 does not guarantee a quality product. But it provides the best chance to prevent network resilience failures through appropriate risk management and good governance. Asset-owning organisations, including road operators, should therefore embrace formalised governance frameworks such as PAS 55 and ISO 55000 to manage their assets safely and efficiently.

1Highways Agency became Highways England in April 2015.

2PAS 55 maturity level 3: All elements of PS55 are in place and are being applied and are integrated. Only minor inconsistencies may exist.

3The gold-silver-bronze command structure is used by emergency services of the U.K. to establish a hierarchical framework for the command and control of major incidents and disasters.

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