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UK Highway Schemes

UK road construction – the National Highway Sector Schemes

About NHSS
Who is affected by NHSS?
The scope of NHSS
Who devises the Schemes?
Irish certification
Find out more

The UK National Highway Sector Schemes (NHSS) are a set of procedures governing motorway construction and road building in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

About NHSS

Contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers of road building materials tendering for work in Northern Ireland or in any other part of the UK must have a certified Quality Management System (QMS) registered to International Standard (ISO) 9001.
The UK National Highway Sector Schemes are designed to complement and supplement ISO 9001. Their specific purpose is to establish a benchmark of best practices for the road construction industry, focusing on areas such as:

  • Quality of work
  • Training of staff
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Management practices.

Who is affected by NHSS?

Compliance with and registration to the relevant National Highway Sector Scheme is generally mandatory for contract work carried out on behalf of the UK Highways Agency or the Department of Environment Northern Ireland.
NHSS is relevant to:
  • Main contractors who work on the motorway and trunk road network
  • Any contractors working on or beside roads
  • Manufacturers, installers and repairers of materials and equipment
  • Highway designers and consultants
  • Sub-contractors
  • Industrial, commercial and private developers
  • Rail and inland waterways contractors.

The scope of NHSS

NHSS includes a number of individual Sector Schemes, each covering a specific aspect of road building, for example:
  • Road surfaces
  • Electrical and electronic equipment
  • Safety fencing
  • Road traffic signs
  • Road markings
  • Landscaping
  • Traffic management.
Currently there are 24 NHSS Schemes in operation, though this number is continually expanding. They can be broadly divided into four groups:
  • Fencing, landscaping and vehicle safety restraints – covered by schemes 2A, 2B, 2C, 3, 4, 5A, 5B and 18
  • Road surfacing and marking – covered by schemes 13A, 13B, 14, 15 and 16
  • Lighting and electrics, and corrosion protection – covered by schemes 6, 7, 8, 9A, 9B, 10 and 19
  • Traffic management – covered by schemes 12A, 12B, 12C, 12D and 17.

Who devises the Schemes?

The UK Highway Sector Schemes are drawn up and managed by separate technical advisory committees, each comprising key representatives from interested groups including construction companies, suppliers, local councils, trade associations and certification bodies.
Each technical advisory committee applies ISO 9001 to its own sphere of activity. Typically, an NHSS Scheme document will set out a clause-by-clause interpretation of ISO 9001.
The UK Highways Agency oversees these technical committees.

Scheme documents are available on the UKAS website


Some Sector Schemes include the training of operatives. Others concentrate on delivering product conformity.
Many UK roads and highways contracts specify that supervisory staff must themselves have undergone relevant training by the UK sector-specific training body, Lantra Awards.
For example, NHSS Sector Scheme, 12D - For installing, maintaining and removing temporary traffic management on rural and urban roads, includes mandatory training modules for Registered Traffic Management Operatives.
For more detail on training requirements, download a copy of the Lantra Awards Specification of Training and/or Assessment for Centres (pdf) .

Irish certification

Contractors and suppliers who wish to trade in Northern Ireland and are affected by these Schemes can discuss their certification requirements with the Construction Quality Assurance Ireland and NSAI partnership.

The CQAI/NSAI partnership is the leading construction-related third-party certification organization in Ireland. It combines the specific expertise of the construction certification body, CQAI, with the broad expertise of NSAI, Ireland’s national certification body.

CQAI-NSAI auditors are construction specialists trained to help you meet the requirements of the relevant NHSS Scheme.

Find out more

Fergal O’Byrne
CQAI/NSAI Operations Manager, Construction Certification

T: + 353 1 807 3962
F: + 353 1 807 3844

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