Programme guidelines are specifications for use by road authority staff of the elements within a potential programme that are to be developed and funded on a priority basis (usually on the basis of benefit-cost ratio or net present value; see Intervention Selection And Prioritisation). They are used by many road authorities to guide preparation of projects that are to be considered in a corporate approval process in various programme funding categories for the coming financial year.
Their development is usually a cooperative process between the relevant central policy area and the regions of a road authority, which will be required to develop and deliver the approved projects as components of the particular programme. They represent the specification of the proposed annual activity programme which has been agreed between core business areas, regional offices and corporate level, and enable regions to bid in detail for categories of project funding.
An example of this is the introduction of a safety-focused maintenance policy that embeds safety performance criteria in the agreed levels of service of the road network. Modification of these existing practices can deliver measurable safety improvement across the network over time. A review of existing practices and identification of ways to modify current practice to deliver a safer network at the same or similar levels of cost could be carried out as part of annual programme guideline development.
Effective programme guidelines require sufficient lead time for development, and then are used to assist the generation of the annual programme for review, consideration and prioritisation during the budget development period.
There are many variants to this process in different authorities. The important elements are:
It takes time and effort to set up arrangements for new programmes with which the road authority is comfortable. It is suggested that simpler programmes (both development and delivery) in the initial years of development can assist with this transition, especially for LMICs.
Projects that are more straightforward in nature (such as blackspot or blacklength identification and treatment on the existing network and road safety audit activity for new projects) offer a good initial learning platform.
The commencement of safety programmes with blackspot treatments enables staff to understand the necessary analysis of crash costs, the impacts of specific treatment types (such as roundabouts or hard-shoulder widening), and the crash cost reduction benefits of those treatments. As outlined in Establishing Corporate Processes to Develop Policy in Embedding the Safe System in the Goals and Operational Practice of Road Authorities these are necessary skill sets required before a road authority moves on to crash-risk-based identification, and analysis and treatment of network lengths and routes to achieve crash reduction benefits.
Success in the initial years with a simpler programme is likely to lead to increased support for the road safety improvement task from the community and government and to further funding.