If we want our road infrastructure to be fit for the long term, we must keep pace with the key drivers affecting the highways industry, says Andy Theobald.
Providing our clients with long-term solutions means looking ahead, taking a 10 to 20-year time horizon to understand how to design and deliver projects that will serve society decades into the future.
It’s common to look at new technologies and processes that are making an impact now – artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example – and try to imagine a world where they are even more embedded in our solutions than today.
Technologies come and go, however, and the speed of innovation means many of the tools we’ll be using in the coming years have yet to make an impact currently. Instead, it’s more useful to look at the main drivers affecting demand to get a better sense of the long-term solutions we need to deliver:
Roads for levelling up
The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals are steering economic development, and good road infrastructure directly or indirectly supports all of them in some way. Highways link people to jobs, to markets to sell their goods, to educational opportunities and healthcare facilities. Roads can be a key investment to change people’s economic prospects and to support equality, as good connectivity can reduce time spent on menial tasks and widen access to jobs and opportunity.
The World Bank estimates that nearly 1bn people worldwide live more than 2km from an all-weather road. It also estimates that one in six women globally are not actively seeking work out of fear of harassment in transit. While road infrastructure in the UK is significantly more developed, there is still scope to improve the network to help spread prosperity. The focus should be on the factors driving the community’s need for the road. Improving neighbourhoods, addressing the needs of local communities, and enhancing the natural environment through nature-based solutions and regenerative design, will all help to maximise the long-term benefits.
The International Transport Forum’s 2021 transport outlook estimates that to 2050 there will be a 2.3-fold increase in demand for passenger transport and a 2.6-fold increase in demand for freight transport. In the UK, the Department for Transport predicts road traffic will increase by between 17% and 51% by 2050 (depending on the development trajectory taken). Digital systems and smart motorways will be crucial in helping us to use existing roads more efficiently. Where new road infrastructure is needed, this must be balanced with the need to drive down emissions. Roads which support and encourage active transport and electrified vehicles will be key to cutting emissions, while working with suppliers to enhance the materials used will help reduce embodied carbon.
Designing for safety
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.35M people are killed on the world’s roads each year. Road accidents are already the leading cause of death for people between the ages of five and 29, and by 2030, WHO predicts that more people will die as a result of road accidents than die of cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes or violence. Besides the tragic human cost, there is also an economic cost to countries – estimated as an average of 3% of GDP each year – which impacts the resources that can be put into social development.
We need to work with users, operators and vehicle manufacturers to design in safety, using technology where appropriate. Our efforts should include helping to promote a cultural change in attitudes to the remote control of vehicles on roads by convincing the public they can carry more traffic, more safely.
Alternatives to fossil fuels
We know electric vehicles are a crucial and growing element of our transport system to tackle emissions, and these need to be supported with the necessary charging infrastructure. Heavy trucks, though, challenge what is capable via current battery technology and charging times would impact logistics. Sweden and Germany have trialled electric road systems which power heavy trucks via overhead lines, rails or an induction loop. This is a technically feasible solution to electrifying heavy vehicles but the business case is still to be proven.
The probable long-term solution could be green hydrogen, either through combustion or fuel cells, which requires development of specialised infrastructure to support it. As for active transport modes, inner city commuters increasingly expect dedicated cycle lanes and greater separation between pedestrians and car users, with better, greener public spaces that support health and wellbeing.
Technology will change the way we use roads. Connected, driver-assisted and electric vehicles are delivering better informed and more comfortable journeys. As we look into the future, mobility as a service and other shared ownership models are likely to make road journeys more affordable and accessible for everyone. Data-driven operations and management solutions will boost the capacity of our network and lead to more efficient maintenance. A digital-first approach will help deliver enhanced journeys for all.
If we want to unlock the significant social benefits of point-to-point road journeys, the highways industry must continue to invest and keep up with technological advances to create a road transport network that is accessible, affordable and inclusive. While the outlook is uncertain, keeping mindful of these five key trends will help ensure highways infrastructure supports all parts of society for the long term and common good.
Andrew Theobald, group practice leader for highways, Mott MacDonald
Jose Javier García Pardenilla, Project Lead at Ferrovial, argues that roads are durable to extreme weather conditions, we just have to redesign how we formulate asphalt pavement.
This year, we have seen surprising images from around the world, from airports forced to halt operations due to melted pavements to melting roads or tires that have been affected.
But it would be incorrect to assume that the problem lies in roads being unable to withstand heat. We actually have to redesign how we formulate asphalt pavement. Lately, we’ve been facing a climate emergency where central and northern Europe have been impacted dramatically this summer. Some of the problems they have had to face include not having air conditioning in their homes; in light of what has happened, they will undoubtedly need to install it. Some of my acquaintances who live in countries with climates that are quite different from ours have been telling me about it. This is the case of some acquaintances from Geneva (Switzerland) who told me that it was really difficult since houses there were not prepared for the heat. Similarly, roadways initially designed for different climatic conditions have needed adaptations for warmer climates and heat waves in summer like the ones we’ve seen recently. It is precisely in these extreme moments that the roadway has to respond properly and continue to operate. If a road surface breaks down in a heat wave, it is no longer useful and has to be rebuilt.
But what’s really going on?
When you start looking into pavement, one of the first things you’ll come across is rut formation. Ruts are a deformation that occurs when traffic drives on a road, usually when the heat affects the surface in such a way that it loses its structural capacity. This is basically what has happened in many parts of Europe this summer.
I’ve taken this opportunity to find some books in the lab library to show that even they list this concept as the number one topic in the roadway catalog by the former MOPU (currently the Ministry of Transport, Mobility, and the Urban Agenda). As you can see, this knowledge has been available for decades. The only thing that remains to be done is to adopt a rapid change in the regulations implemented in Europe. I’d like to point out that Spain has a tradition of expertise in building roads that, from my point of view, is among the top three in the world. This is due, in large part, to the influence that Spanish universities, the Ministry of Transport itself, and Cedex, to name a few, have had with amazing work done in training and communication regarding this issue.
All of this work to train professionals well is also part of the success of our construction companies outside Spain. Building knowledge means building value, and this transforms into opportunities and benefits in the medium and long term. This is a clear success story, and we should thank everyone who has made it possible for decades.
Take a look at this BBC news photo from this year, 2022; it shows the same thing happening as the photo from the 1989 roadway deterioration catalog. It’s not that the UK has done anything wrong; they just have to change the circumstances surrounding infrastructure. From now on, they should start changing the bitumen specifications for roads. If they don’t do so soon, this will become a mistake.
How can we prevent roads from melting?
Asphalt bitumens are binders; you can think of them as the glue for the aggregates (rocks) in the road. These bitumens are classified by hardness, which is proportional to their temperature resistance. This means that the harder they are, the more resistant they will be to high temperatures. In Europe, bitumens are classified with a number: the lower the number, the harder the bitumen will be. There are two main ones used here, the B 50/70 and B 35/50. Historically, the B 50/70 has been most used in Europe, and now it should be replaced by the B 35/50.
About 20 years ago, when I hadn’t been working long, I remember the El Prat Airport project carried out by Ferrovial. We invested a lot of time in meetings with Aena and explanations to substitute B 50/70 for B 35/50. We did so precisely because of what is happening now in Europe. I was worried that a hard summer would come right after finishing the project and that ruts will appear. It took a lot of work because, once a project is drafted, it’s quite difficult to change. Finally, Aena’s technicians understood our point of view, and we did it with B 35/50. To be honest, I was satisfied because it was a technical issue, one that was of concern for the infrastructure. The price of both products were the same, so it was all the benefits at the same cost. I know for a fact that those pavements will be better off today than if we had used B 50/70.
So what is the advantage of bitumen B 50/70?
B 50/70 resists low winter temperatures better; being softer in the cold, they work better. But of course, this problem is becoming less and less relevant. In the case of Barcelona’s airport, this almost didn’t apply, given Barcelona’s wonderful climate in winter.
Surely someone will be wondering, “Are there no other solutions other than hard or soft?”
Recently, I was lucky enough to be a speaker at the Argus conference in Nice, where I explained that the top environmental product is the one that lasts the longest. With the current raw material crisis, we should also try to use fewer quantities of products. To do this, I said that we had to start making more roads with modified bitumen to make them last longer. We can also reduce the thickness of the roads since the performance of the modified bitumen is much higher and allows for making pavement thinner. Now, there’s another very important reason that I didn’t think was so significant in May: resisting heat waves. Modified bitumen has a softening point around 70ºC or even over 80ºC, while this point for the normal types that we mentioned before is around 50ºC.
This is already a common trend; look at this news from Alabama. In the United States, the use of polymer-modified bitumen is growing. After these episodes, it will continue to do so.
For example, most of the projects by Cintra use modified bitumen in the surface layer, which comes into the most contact with the outside and must therefore withstand extreme conditions the most.
Some countries that have come to understand this situation well are Germany, Poland, and the European centers that have high percentages of using modified bitumen, even exceeding 30% of all bitumen used in the country. These road surfaces will last longer; therefore, it will take longer before needing reinforcement. Thanks to this, they will provide significant savings to the infrastructure’s owner. In our project for the Bratislava bypass, we not only used modified bitumen for the surface layer; we also used it for the middle one. This is quite a success, and in the long term, it will provide a great return on investment.
As usually is the case, these are simple: balancing the consumption of conventional bitumen with harder products and generalizing the use of modified bitumen.
As you can imagine, the manufacturing technology for modified bitumen is complex, and the chemical interaction between the polymer and bitumen is key for good performance. But let’s leave all these technicalities for those of us who have to work on the proper functioning of infrastructure so that you can enjoy your next trip by car or by plane.
And now, in conclusion, I want to highlight one more thing. In the end, when you implement a technological improvement, this is transported to many things. In the case of modified bitumens, the performance is better – for the drivers; we can use less material – an environmental improvement; there’s greater durability – another environmental improvement; they won’t melt in a heat wave – an absolute improvement. This means we have to work on improvements every day, and the benefits will come back to us full circle.
Look at this road I drive on every day. It’s the M-100 in the Community of Madrid. It was built by Ferrovial Construction in 2008 and was made with modified bitumen, along with a porous road surface, which means it does not get waterlogged when it rains. This photo is from 2018, eight years after its construction and eight years of constant use. Today, it is exactly the same. Working on quality infrastructure is vital, but considering the climatic circumstances is also important. You can read more about that in this post.
Trimble’s Duncan Reed, Business Development Manager, and Stuart Campbell, Head of Sales and Business Development, explores the value of connected technology for civil infrastructure, ahead of Highways UK 2022
Our nation’s civil infrastructure is a critical part of the UK, with our roads and highways used by millions of people every day, helping us to stay connected. When it comes to their design, construction and maintenance, this theme of connectivity rises again, with the benefits of connected and synchronised construction being extensive and far-reaching.
At Trimble, we always advocate for a digitised construction workflow when it comes to civil infrastructure, and we’re proud to have a long record of supporting the effective design and efficient delivery of highways projects in the UK with our portfolio of solutions.
While there has been an evident rise in the uptake of design software, adding hardware into the workflow can be an additional piece of the jigsaw. Having software and hardware that talk to one another, with data that is shared, and teams that communicate effectively is critical – not just for the Concept & Design phase but also Site Construction and even beyond that, feeding into the Operation & Maintenance stage.
Here at Trimble, we welcome National Highway’s Digital, Data and Technology Strategy, as we are pleased to support the Connected and Autonomous Plant (CAP) programme too. In particular, we see CAP as a platform for the industry to look at connectivity throughout the project lifecycle.
From this comes the power to check, review and gain insights from the data that has been created during the design, construction and operation of the Strategic Roads network and beyond. As an industry, we already create and collect huge amounts of data. It is providing the technology that can then take this data, combine, filter and display it. By having this useful information, we can take the industry forward to the point of real time insights. Whether this is validating the quality of the new asset as it is being constructed, through to predicting when existing assets will fall below standard, to giving road users real-time information on the state of the network – good data underpins all of these processes.
Location, Information and Collaboration
It may seem obvious but one of the most important factors in the design and construction of roads is the ‘where’. Different outputs require different levels of accuracy but knowing and delivering these is crucial for the successful delivery of a project. Here at Trimble location, information and collaboration are the three cornerstones of our business. Customers use our technology to ensure that survey information is collected accurately and shared in the right format, enabling the creation of designs that can be set out in the field correctly too.
Automation and Machine Control
Trimble are proud of the depth and breadth of technology we can offer – our mission is to ‘transform the way the world works’. One such example of this is our established work in the field of autonomy, where we have leveraged our skills, knowledge and expertise in the agriculture and mining sectors to now inform the development of autonomous solutions in the construction and transportation spaces too.
Machine control, the first step towards full autonomy, can create better accuracy, improved quality and, in turn, offers carbon savings too. Our customers are already reporting 25% improvements from our assisted steering technology for compaction equipment
Combining this technology with the ability to view, both in real time and remotely, the performance of plant and equipment on site allows project teams to massively improve the management of their operations.
Start with the end in mind
It’s a well-worn phrase to say ‘start with the end in mind’ but when it comes to working digitally this really is the case. To ensure a constructible design is achieved in the field, it needs to be defined, designed and detailed accurately from the start. The design shouldn’t just deliver the required linework and levels but should be the result of a rigorous and collaborative process, considering the required outcomes, carbon, environmental issues, costs and buildability.
The right digital solutions can support these design processes and help to deliver roads for the future.
Adam Crossley, Director of Environment at Skanska UK, explains how we need to get back to basics when tackling net-zero challenges in the highways sector.
Don’t over-complicate the journey to achieving net-zero carbon emissions.
We’re living through a period of significant change for society driven by the impacts of climate change. And we need look no further than the building and construction sector to find one of the world’s biggest emitters of carbon. Buildings equivalent to a city the size of Paris are being built every week, but less than one per cent of them are assessed to determine their carbon footprint. The good news is we’ve started the journey, but we have a long way to go. It means we have a huge opportunity, now, to do something about it.
Focusing on the basics
One of our biggest opportunities lies in focusing on the basics, through targeting the highest emitting sources of carbon emissions first. Approximately 70% of emissions in our sector arise from steel, concrete, asphalt and plant. We have to significantly reduce and then effectively eliminate carbon in these areas in order to get to net-zero emissions across our industry.
It starts with a clear vision that sets targets, milestones and clarity on expectations. We’ve seen this over recent years with organisations including National Highways, HS2 and Network Rail all publishing their net-zero carbon plans. In its roadmap to net-zero, National Highways has set its expectation to achieve net zero road maintenance and construction by 2040. The plan is backed by evidence and has impressive sub-targets to bring it to life. Unsurprisingly, high on the priority list is tackling carbon emissions caused by asphalt, cement and steel.
Being better together
So how do we go about it? We have the best chance of success through joining forces, sharing knowledge and working collaboratively – across different market sectors and countries. The good news is it’s happening. On our M42 Junction 6 scheme, for example, we’ve received funding from National Highways to work alongside the National Composites Centre, Basalt Technologies and Tarmac to compare traditional steel reinforced concrete with a low carbon concrete, reinforced with basalt fibre. The trial, on a haul road, is proving a success and we’re now looking at the next stage of the project.
But it also poses a challenge, which is common across the industry. In order to rollout innovations at scale they need to be proven to ensure compliance with the relevant standards and accreditations. That’s absolutely the right thing to do. But we all know that this takes time, often years. Maybe there is an alternative option. If the current standard specifies a 120-year design-life, but a carbon-friendly material may have a reduced design-life, could the standard be adapted instead? It’s important issues like this that we need to focus on as an industry so we can find ways to safely introduce new innovations and ways of working, while supporting delivery of our net-zero carbon ambitions.
Achieving common understanding
We also need to work alongside materials specialists and related industry bodies. For example, Skanska are founding signatories to both the ConcreteZero and SteelZero pledges, committing us to procuring, specifying and stocking 100% net zero steel and working with net-zero concrete by 2050, with interim commitments on the way. It’s industry leading, but we also know that the 2050 target is 10 years behind where National Highways needs us to be. Cutting that gap, such as through designing steel out or using replacements, requires significant investment and collaborative working.
It’s essential therefore that we involve and bring our supply chain with us. We need the expertise of our partners and we need to ensure there is a common level of understanding, including in industry specifications such as PAS2080. We need to prioritise and focus on what is important in delivering the biggest carbon reduction impacts.
Although collaboration is important, let’s not over-complicate the challenge. We need to remember that the majority of our emissions result from just a handful of key emitters, so if we can tackle these directly we’ll solve most of the challenge. To do that we need confidence and clarity in the pipeline of projects at national level, which is so important for industry investment and can super-charge innovation. For example, if we know what our plant and fleet needs will be for years to come, we can demonstrate that demand to manufacturers, including Tier 2 and Tier 3 contractors, stimulating investment in electric, hydrogen and other clean fuel alternatives.
It’s just one example of how we can achieve transformation – where the collective strength of Government, industry bodies, customers, contractors and supply chain all come together. Let’s keep it simple and work together to make net-zero carbon a reality.
Andrew Stephenson, procurement director at National Highways, reflects on how road schemes can add value to society through economic prosperity and improving community wellbeing.
At National Highways, we’re well positioned to transform our customer’s lives through social value and the legacy benefits it creates for future generations. Since joining the organisation two years ago, I’ve seen social value work delivered that’s not just great, its sector and industry leading.
Our 21-mile upgrade of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntington is a fantastic example. This £1.5bn project has not only provided more capacity and better connectivity for quicker, safer and more reliable journeys, we’ve also invested in preserving areas of historical interest along the route and protecting the environment by boosting biodiversity.
We deliver value to society in more ways than you may imagine.
Working with the local communities around our projects and operational areas helps us to design schemes that meet the economic needs of the area and the communities living nearby.
We invested more than £4 billion into our road network last year, and we estimate that will produce a return to society of roughly twice that figure.
Of course, a lot of that is economic value.
Businesses rely on our roads to move goods around the country, and people rely on them for work journeys, holidays and visits to friends and family.
Spending money with suppliers local to our projects, or supporting smaller businesses by engaging with them and helping them better understand how they can work with us, also helps support economic growth.
We want to do more and spend more with diverse suppliers to generate the widest possible social impact.
But it’s more than just economic value.
Together with our supply chain partners, we employ over 40,000 people and provide thousands of opportunities for people through apprenticeships, graduate schemes and training to build skills. We’re also focused on helping people get back into work – whether they’re ex-offenders, people who classify as homeless, ex -army veterans or simply need support to re-enter the job market after a career break.
By making sure we provide more opportunities for under-represented groups, we – and the wider highways sector – will benefit from a more diverse and talented workforce.
We empower our people to build better relationships in the communities in which they live and work by volunteering their time and skills to support projects they feel passionately about.
Our roads also play an important role in relieving the pressure of traffic from towns and cities.
We remove the traffic travelling through towns and cities and reduce congestion, noise and pollution in densely populated urban areas. And we’re working hard to address health-related issues and improve amenities, education, and heritage programmes in these and wider communities.
It’s important that we take sustainable decisions.
We conserve natural resources and enhance ecosystems wherever we can to protect the environment. We’re supporting road users to transition to zero-emission vehicles, increasing biodiversity, creating wildlife corridors and preventing flooding. Our Lower Thames Crossing project is a great example of delivering more by setting ambitious targets for biodiversity gains and carbon reduction, as well as the creation of public spaces and cycle routes.
Delivering social value isn’t new to us.
We’ve always built value into every aspect of our network, specifically focusing on the needs of our customers. We know how important it is that we make a positive difference to the communities and environment in which we work. To some extent we’re mandated to deliver this, but we also do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Andrew Stephenson is National Highways’ Procurement Director and leads on Social Value as part of his portfolio. To find out more about how National Highways is working with suppliers to make a difference for customers and local communities, come to Andrew’s talk at Highways UK, which is running in the National Highways Theatre on 2 November, 14.10-14.30
Martyn Sherwood, managing director at Metrail Construction, talks through sustainable methods to road maintenance taken from Germany’s Autobahn now being used in the UK.
Innovation, sustainability and technology — three things that we at Metrail are proud to be at the forefront of. And I’m delighted to say that the technology we brought to our recent concrete road refurbishment on a stretch of the M180 exemplifies exactly this.
I’m talking, of course, about the highly specialised resin product from Germany
After being introduced to the system via a manufacturer, we went over to Germany to fully understand its benefits. Having been to Germany, having visited the German Autobahn and having seen the system in use, I was very excited to bring it to the UK. And during a concrete road refurbishment of a stretch of the eastbound carriageway of the M180 which commenced in October 2021, we got the chance to do just that.
With the technical support of our German partner, Otto Alte-Teigeler GmbH (OAT), I was very excited for Metrail to be the first to trial this technique on England’s strategic road network. It’s important to me to continue finding solutions that are both cost effective as well as better for the planet.
So, how does it work and why do I prefer it over other solutions?
First a little background info about the resin: mixed on-site, the resin was designed for the stabilisation of concrete slabs on high-speed roads in Germany, where it has a credible history. With a product life of up to 30 years, the resin can survive under the road surface whilst subject to unbalanced loads, combinations of pressure, tension and shear as well as the dynamic effects of traffic much longer than brittle cement-based systems.
For this project on the M180, we drilled over 20,000 holes into the concrete slabs between Junction 1 and 3. Packers were mechanically fixed into the holes in the slab which allow the resin to be injected through the slab into the subsoil. The resin was then injected at a controlled pressure, and its job is twofold: one, unlike traditional cementitious products that are mixed with water, with the viscosity of the resin material being 1.4 times the density of water, the product is able to force any excess water out from under the slab. And two: it fills in all voids in the sub-formation.
Something else I really like about it: the fact that it’s a two-component silica resin with a ratio of 1:1 which is kept at a constant temperature means there’s no need to mess around with other chemicals. The advantage of this? Each mix is consistent and there’s very little waste. And compared with removal, this technique also has a smaller carbon footprint.
Another one of the reasons that I prefer this technique over other solutions is how quick it is. With a cure-time of 15 minutes, this is a customer-focused solution with a methodology that’s quicker than other approaches. The unique formula of the resin used and its rapid hardening capability, which allows carriageways to be opened much more quickly, is cost effective and a game changer for concrete road maintenance in the UK.
With a proven track record on the M180 — measurements taken by James Fisher Testing Services before and after each stabilisation shift suggest the pavement response significantly improved after the treatment, and the collected deflections for pavement evaluation purposes based on CD 227 mean that the overall stretch of pavement could be classified as Class A — I’m looking forward to a successful future with new innovation on concrete roads.
Rob Cook, Civils & Infrastructure Director at Winvic, talks about their delivery strategy and projects ahead of exhibiting at Highways UK this year.
Since I was appointed by Winvic in the brand-new role of Director for Civils and Infrastructure, it has been a whirlwind of strategic implementation and steady growth and two years has passed quicker than I ever thought possible. Capitalising on our expertise, experience and widely valued forward-thinking standards, our focus has been on winning contracts for infrastructure schemes and major rail freight interchanges, such as DIRFT III, SEGRO Logistics Park Northampton and West Midlands Interchange. Plus, we have also been appointed on large commercial and housing enabling projects as well as public sector highways frameworks. Having built excellent relationships with National Highways (NH) through numerous projects that have had Section 278, Section 38 and adjacent Smart Motorways programmes for almost 10 years, securing a place on the organisation’s new Scheme Delivery Framework (SDF) was the number one goal Winvic set its sights on.
The tender process was as robust as one would expect, and with our evidenced capabilities, innovative foresight and confidence in always doing the right thing – even if that means challenging the norm, on all areas from safety to materials used – we were successful. At the end of September 2021, we joined 49 other contractors on the Framework to deliver £3.6 billion of road renewal works on England’s motorways and trunk roads over the next six years. That was the easy bit! October was the start of a huge undertaking to plan, prepare and mobilise, from positioning team members to expanding on tender commitments and policies. As is in our DNA, there wasn’t a stone unturned between then and February 2022 to ensure the Framework requirements were met, and boy did we work hard. Nevertheless, it was also an exciting time as we waited to be given details and budget allocations for the circa 10 projects, in four geographical areas across two lots – Lot 8 Structures, Waterproofing and Expansion Joints and Lot 10 Structures, Structural Services and Concrete Repairs – that we were scheduled to deliver in the first year.
Winvic’s dedicated SDF office in Wakefield, just down the road from National Highways’ regional office, opened at the beginning of April at the same time as more planned project information emerged and liaison intensified. We began to look in detail at the schemes with the National Highways project managers, assign design teams where Early Contractor Involvement was possible and talk execution dates. Little did we know that none of these projects would be the first Winvic undertaking under the Framework; within a month we were asked to turn our attention to an emergency.
During a routine investigation by National Highways on the M62 bridge over the River Ouse, it was discovered that increased vibration from traffic has started to damage the concrete under lane three and a bridge joint, which allows the carriageway to expand and contract with the weather. Therefore, a contraflow was put in place to reduce eastbound traffic to one lane and keep drivers safe.
National Highways selected Winvic to assist as the team had the utmost confidence in our investigative, creative thinking and safety-first approach, and knew we had the skills immediately on hand to tackle such a large and unforeseen job. With Framework processes well in place by May, we were in the very best position to act fast with the aim of minimising disruption for the thousands of people who use the bridge. So, we began a raft of specialist surveys on the 1.6 kilometre, 40-metre-high structure that sits between Junctions 36 and 37 on the Yorkshire motorway. However, after an under-bridge inspection by one of Winvic’s structural engineers, we brought it to National Highways’ attention that there was excessive deflection within the cantilever deck section within Lane 3. While roads users are a top priority, safety comes higher on the list, and we recommended all traffic should be removed from this lane. Nevertheless, we on July 8th we installed some bridging plates, which enabled a single lane to be opened on the eastbound carriageway to enable traffic to exit at J37, helping to minimise disruption to motorist’s journeys.
Alongside the temporary solution, our team was also working with the National Highways Designer Jacobs, on designing the permanent answers and other associated works, comprising concrete and steel repairs, replacement bridge joints and improved drainage on the structure. There were two sets of bridging plates at our disposal, but one was not suitable for the structure and the second was less than ideal, so we advocated further research and sourced a plate more apt for the Ouse Bridge’s movement ranges. We have now installed these bridging plates over the damaged bridge joints as a temporary mitigation measure, and a second set will be added this autumn. We are also currently working as one team with a number of National Highways project partners on the complex design process required to replace all eight joints across both carriageways and it’s critical the solution reduces the need for full closures in the future as much as possible. The permanent installation programme will be undertaken in 2023 and is expected to be completed by autumn 2023.
The network plate design has just been approved and is about to be manufactured and the aim is to have these installed by the end of the year. Also, we have now started two out of the 10 other scheduled SDF schemes, which are joints and waterproofing projects based in Tingley and Lofthouse, being undertaken with daytime lane closures and weekend overnight closures to negate as much interruption to road users as possible.
In less than 12-months, we’ve not only won a place on the SDF and successfully prepared for mobilisation, but we’ve also hit the ground – or bridge deck! – running, illustrating we were the right contractor for the Framework. We are committed to meticulous planning, but we’re also equipped to react whenever required, we have experience in abundance, but we also champion finding new ways of doing things and we’re proud that National Highways values those attributes. Whether it’s capitalising on the efficiencies, reducing operational and embodied carbon or delivering benefits to the local communities in which we work, we’re here to do the right thing and steer the future of modern contracting
Thomas Leopoldseder, CEO of Q Point, unpacks the potential of digital solutions within the road construction process.
Through the digitalization of business processes, internally or together with business partners, decisive competitive advantages can be achieved – construction projects can be completed on time and with the highest quality and at the same time economically. There is additional potential for resource-saving road construction in the optimization of the overall process.
Many studies still show that the construction industry has a low level of digitization compared to other branches of industry. At the same time, the construction industry is characterized by an extreme price war and digitization would help to design processes in a cost-optimal manner, improve work results and increase quality. Diversified value-added areas, heterogeneous devices and system landscapes as well as area and project thinking that has been shaped over decades, coupled with a low willingness to change based on past successes, present the greatest challenges for the industry today. Digital solutions and the networking of data create a level of transparency in individual processes that is not always desirable. This transparency or, in other words, the project-wide and sometimes cross-project availability of data and information, is the basis for the new form of cooperation and thus the basis for relevant effects on resources, costs and emissions.
Today, processes, requirements and use of resources based on their specification, availability and costs are optimally calculated using intelligent process systems during the calculation and planning. The relevant information is available to all executors and those involved in a role-specific manner. Updates on the status and a comparison with the original plan are made available to all those involved in the implementation, regardless of location. This increases the planning and execution security for everyone and supports the resource-optimal use of people, machines, and materials.
Some examples of resource-saving work through digital process support:
Digital implementation planning leads to the optimal deployment and utilization of personnel, machines and materials.
Digital order management creates higher commitments and the basis for more efficient production and logistics planning
Optimized number and types of trucks for asphalt logistics reduce costs, cycles and emissions.
Dynamic adjustments during implementation always ensure the best possible project success.
Digital assistance systems for comprehensive compaction control (CCC) reduce the operating times of machines and personnel and lead to the highest quality.
The reduction of waste of resources and the simultaneous fight against the lack of skilled workers is made possible by the networking of people, systems and processes. With its solutions, Q Point creates the necessary connections for the intelligent road construction of the future. Achieving more together through effectively used transparency of the relevant data. This promotes trust and cooperation as the basis for more successful, less waste on the construction from which everyone benefits. This includes the entire value chain, from the client to contractors and subcontractors, as well as suppliers and consumers. Efficiency and sustainability through transparency lead to WIN-WIN-WIN.
Mathew Haslam, managing director at Hardscape outlines their extensive product range with the UK’s largest selection of Connectivity Solutions Products.
Proudly independent and with over 25 years of expertise in pushing the boundaries of hard landscaping, Hardscape is driven by innovation and the ambition of providing environmentally conscious hard landscaping. Its latest range is integrated infrastructure design solutions which are used to create an improved health and wellbeing environment safe for cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles.
Our kerb range is available with different slopes, end styles, widths, depths, gradients, and radii which provide a practical purpose in both form and function, in a variety of colours in standard concrete, natural stone and Kellen Lavaro finishes.
Renowned for leading the way, bringing inspiration and innovation from around the globe, Hardscape provide Landscape Architects and Specifiers with unrivalled quality and function in a range of natural and man-made materials.
The Future of Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions.
2020 saw an unprecedented change in public behaviour in the UK, and throughout the world; in particular, during lockdown, the levels of walking and cycling increased and have remained high following the lifting of these restrictions. As a result, the UK government, influenced by the success of Dutch cycling, have fast tracked the statutory guidance, indicating local authorities should reallocate road space to accommodate significantly increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, providing a safe way for all age groups to use healthier methods of transportation.
The extensive research, detailed specification, and implementation of Hardscape’s new range of ‘Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions’ is reflective of Hardscape’s DNA and its commitment to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). Hardscape also see this as the natural next step in how external space designers, engineers and planners redesign landscapes with cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles in mind, creating an urban environment that all users can share space equitably and safely.
Paving the way with Dutch inspired policy and design.
Since the 1970s the Dutch have mastered creating a safer environment, inviting cycling and people to safely share existing travel infrastructure. For the Dutch to achieve this environmentally friendly connectivity strategy they have developed intelligent, logical, coherent kerb systems for actively segregating transport modes and methods.
Working with Dutch product solutions for over 20 years, Hardscape have the knowledge and distribution networks to now bring this innovative product range to the UK market.
Offering extensive options for every conceivable project, Hardscape’s new range bridges the gap between optimum design and attractive infrastructure spaces making them accessible for all.
“We are introducing these products to the UK with the support and impetus of the UK government’s wellbeing principles and directives. We hope to inspire the next generation of connected towns and cities that are brave in specification and designed to bring a long-lasting benefit for us all.” – Mathew Haslam- Managing Director, Hardscape.
Discover more about Hardscape’s Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions.
The breadth of material types, from natural stone, traditional concrete, and natural stone aggregate finishes strengthens Hardscape’s position as the principal paving provider for every application. Hardscape also offers a reduced carbon range of green paving solutions, with its CERO brand; CERO uses a geo-polymer material to replace concrete reducing carbon impact by up to 50%.
To discuss this dynamic and ever-expanding range of Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions products visit:
Ben Rawding from JCB stresses the importance of new technologies to tackle the labour shortages and attract new talent to the sector.
Today the highways teams within British local authorities face a number of challenges, and as an industry we must do more to support them. The work of a highways operative can often be physically challenging, dangerous and unappreciated. Consequently, we are facing a labour shortage, with a concerning trend towards an aging workforce. An unnamed authority has recently conducted a review to assess exact this – with resulting showing an average age of over 50 years for their highways operatives and a troubling level of absence.
If we hope to tackle the unprecedent backlog faced by our highways teams then we must provide them with the necessary tools to mechanise their repair processes and attract new youthful labour into the many open vacancies. The so called ‘PlayStation generation’ will simply not accept roles if they are expected to risk their personal health, through unnecessary manual handling or risk Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. This cannot be understated as exposure to hand arm vibration (HAV) can lead to a combination of neurological (nerve), vascular (circulation) and musculoskeletal symptoms, collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The Health and Safety Executive have identified HAVS as one of the basic health and safety mistakes crippling British industry. This avoidable risk is something we must eliminate; plastering over the issue with vibration monitoring wrist watches is simply not the answer.
British manufacturers such as JCB have recognised this significant issue and feel the burden of being one of the true engineering giants left in this nation. As a result, the PotholePro was born – an innovation driven by JCB Chairman, Lord Bamford. He tasked the finest engineers within the business to address this ever-growing issue. Since launch in 2021, the PotholePro has been supporting local authorities across the UK by mechanising their repair process, eliminating all HAVS risk and attracting a new generation of talent into the highways industry. Operatives have gone from using jack hammers / circular saws to instead repairing the defects from a zero vibration cabin – the heated air suspension seat has also helped!
It must not be forgotten that HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent. A similar story can be said with unnecessary operatives placed unprotected in a live carriageway. If the preparation of the defect can be completely by a machine, without the operator having to leave the comfort of their cab – then this significantly reduces the risks involved. This is not a move to remove the requirement for labour, but instead diversify the tasks and methodology. The individuals who would previously be working on defect preparation, now focus on reinstatement – attempting to keep pace with the machine leading the process line.
As a result, local authorities have reported that operative job satisfaction has improved as they no longer have to carry cumbersome jack hammers, lift large pieces of spoil surface into their truck. Both of these processes, along with the planning, is undertaken with a single machine. To aid this, they have upskilled their operatives to drive the PotholePro, supported by free of charge training from JCB that includes the full CPCS qualification. The remaining operatives focus on reinstatement – to which they have commented is the “satisfying” element.
Whether it is a PotholePro or alternative machinery, it is essential that we mechanise the highways repair processes, providing an up-skilled labour force with the necessary tools to fix more defects in a safer, economical, and permanent manner. Analysis from authorities such as Stoke-on-Trent City Council has demonstrated that mechanisation can transform the whole highways department. They have repaired over 7-years’ worth of defects in just 12 months. Not only have they repaired significantly more defects, but they have drastically lowered their cost per defect as a result. The workforce is more motivated as the machine has ‘picked up the slack’. In fact, one of their operatives has been using jack hammers for 30 years but has been converted to using the PotholePro. Furthermore, the new work methods have changed the perception of the team and as a result, they are able to attract a younger generation of operatives into their department.
Hannah Cook at GreenBlue Urban emphasises the importance of green infrastructure within the road network as towns and cities across the UK expand.
With increasing urbanisation of our towns and cities, the pressure to plant trees is huge.
Priorities are under challenge, our road systems, with increasing traffic, need to provide safe pedestrian access suitable for all, and the plethora of below ground constraints create almost impossible hurdles to overcome.
Only as we give our green infrastructure some sort of parity with grey infrastructure in our urban conurbations, will we truly build resilience and create sustainable cities for future generations.
GreenBlue Urban encourage design with canopy cover in mind, as mature trees have multiple benefits; promoting a healthy, biodiverse, and the sustainable city which includes sequestering carbon, mitigating the effects of climate change, and improving our sense of biophilia minimising stress.
In 2015, a collaboration between Highways England, Keir, Treeconomics, Evans Associates, Davey and Forest research published an i-tree eco survey stating that trees planted in South West Region Highways network remove 29 tonnes of pollutants every year.
GreenBlue Urban worked closely with Glasgow City Highways and Civic Engineers on the scheme: Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. This project was implemented due to the considerable decline in the road’s retailers, so renovation to consolidate the main shopping centre to heart of the city, encouraging customers to visit the shops in person was put into action.
The ‘Green Avenues Plan’ was the driving force to increase canopy cover, with Sauchiehall Street being the perfect pilot to highlight how green infrastructure can be used to change human behaviour, challenging the dominance of vehicles in the public realm.
Twenty-eight specimen trees have been planted in full GreenBlue Urban ArborSystem tree pits provide a strong visual segregation between vehicles and pedestrians/cyclists. Designed as “linked” they provide maximum rooting space in uncompacted soil, giving the trees the best opportunity of attaining species potential.
Beneath the streets lie a labyrinth of interconnected utilities, foundations, and other construction constraints. Many of these constraints are not anticipated, as much of the infrastructure below ground is not well documented.
Guidelines given in the DMRB (Design Manual for Roads and Bridges) HD24 HD26: Pavement Design and Construction, state that the requirement of the road design and surface layer works are to be based principally on a traffic assessment figures. These are expressed in terms of million standards (80kN) axle loads (msa) carried during the design life of the construction. This traffic loading together with the quality of the subgrade dictates the selection of the surfacing and depth of a road pavement required.
The clue to successful tree planting in and around utilities is collaboration and understanding the risks to the utility provider. Trees are not inherently damaging, but they are exploitive of rooting volume, and tend to find the easiest route to nutrient, water, and air. When the initial planting zone has become insufficient for the tree health, the tree roots will explore further areas in search of these items, and in doing so can find small fissures or holes in service ducts and drains.
The complexity of utility runs beneath the paving means that the GreenBlue soil cell system; Rootspace can intertwine around these features, directing the roots into the uncompacted soil chambers. Joining the tree pits beneath ground allows the soil volumes to be reduced, as the trees share the available nutrients and become more resilient than standalone trees would.
We often receive the question: Can you access the tree pits if required after installation? If utilities need to be accessed in the case of an emergency, the contractor simply must excavate to the top of the cell system, remove the RootSpace Lids and hand dig or vacuum excavate through the rooting zone to access the service.
Footway constrictions can also be an ongoing issue. GreenBlue advise to use ReRoot Barrier away from these potential issues and into the Cells below the road, allowing root penetration into optimum soil conditions.
Adoption of tree planting is a complicated issue, and many local authorities find it hard to maintain the balance between efficiently managing their scant resources and greening up urban areas. Commuted sums vary so it is advisable to be clear from the outset.
Well designed highways networks can deliver economic, social and wellbeing benefits, tree pits for the hard landscape are very much embedded within the narrative of green, blue, biodiverse thoroughfares through the effective use of green infrastructure.
New tree planting is required if we are to ensure a continuum of canopy cover for future generations. Urban tree planting needs emphasis on quality rather than quantity.
Andy Peart outlines how local authorities can utilise tech and data to inform their highways asset management decisions and bring in a new environmental dimension.
The science of strategic highways asset management is going through seismic change. Historically, the approach focused on gauging the financial impact of different road repair and maintenance decisions. Local authorities had to weigh up whether it made sense to save money at the outset by using a less expensive surface treatment, only to have to spend more down the line on road repairs or additional surface dressings. On the other hand, they had to assess whether using more durable but expensive materials from the word go would ultimately prove an economically-sounder decision.
This model is now rapidly evolving. There are a range of drivers. Residents are much more attuned to the importance of sustainable construction. They care about the highways development and maintenance process being environmentally efficient. They want the carbon footprint generated across the highways lifecycle to be kept to a minimum. But they also want councils to take a broader perspective and think about how decisions made about highways management and maintenance might impact the wider community.
Government is also becoming more cogniscent of environmental factors in the way it allocates funding to local authority highways departments. Questions relating to sustainability have recently been included for the first time in the Local Highways Maintenance Incentive Fund.
The impact of technological advances
To meet these kinds of drivers, new predictive analytics technology is now coming on stream, allowing local authorities to base highways management and maintenance decisions on their impact on the wellbeing of residents and the local economy and environment, as well as financial cost and road condition. Thanks to these advances, the authorities can move beyond a pure focus on road conditions to thinking much more about where roads are located, who is using them and what the overall environmental impact of their construction and maintenance will be.
Part of this may be around the ability to analyse where pinch points on the network are causing cars to idle at junctions for long periods of time. Part of it may be around better understanding how infrastructure decisions impact the quality of life in specific neighbourhoods: including projected job creation, support for economic growth, environmental impact, and changes in levels of access to important public resources such as hospitals and schools.
However, a key element of the equation will inevitably be around the treatment used on the surface of the road. Many local authorities are working with larger contractors. The local authority effectively manages the highway while the contractors go out and lay the tarmac, and, increasingly today as they are doing that, collect information about temperature and CO2 emissions from the scheme. Typically, they will have specifications around different treatments.
These might include assigning a carbon or NOx output to a treatment that can then get added to the overall lifecycle model. It is another example that demonstrates how highways lifecycle planning is becoming ever greener today.
Many councils are still in the early stages of trying to roll put this kind of approach and currently, they are still trying to understand what their baseline is. They need the ability to model these kinds of factors quickly in order to be able to support the decision-making process on new road builds. It may be a nuanced final decision if, for example, one choice may be more expensive financially but also likely to deliver lower carbon output over time compared to the alternatives.
Flexibility of choice
The aim of any asset management solution in this space is not to drive the council’s end decision in any specific direction, it is more around giving local authorities the ability to run different scenarios and then put those options in front of their senior decision-makers. This need to be done as part of an approach which effectively says – ultimately it your decision but we are giving you the best available information to make it.’
These are complex judgements, after all. Low carbon treatments for highways assets are often cheap to invest in. They are therefore attractive to local authorities who want to go ahead quickly with an environmentally-friendly approach. However, if the council is going to have to re-apply the treatment every year, it is going to end up costing more and it is going to output more carbon. So authorities really need to look beyond short-term gains. In this case, for example, they need to consider whether it might be better to stick to the original road surface, which may be higher carbon at the outset but require much less carbon to maintain over a 30-year lifecycle.
To properly assess that decision, local authorities will need to have the right data available to them, together with the relevant skills to assess that data and the ability to spend time on it and deliver it. Most importantly they will need the right asset management software solution delivered by a vendor they can trust and that can also deliver expert consultancy on top. If they get that formula right, to broaden the overall picture that informs their highways asset management decisions, including bringing a new environmental dimension into it.
Andy is a marketing leader and business strategist with 30+ years’ experience in the AI and B2B software sector. Working with connected asset management leader, Yotta, Andy heads their marketing function and helps ensure the company’s innovative software drives business benefit for its 200+ public and private sector customers. www.weareyotta.com
Yotta are exhibiting once again at Highways UK this year on 2-3 November at the NEC in Birmingham on stand I4
David Metz, honorary professor at the UCL Centre for Transport Studies, outlines his suggested actions to inform future investment decisions when looking ahead to Road Investment Strategy (RIS3)
The Department for Transport has begun to plan its third Road Investment Strategy (RIS3), the investment programme for the Strategic Road Network (SRN) for 2025-2030. There are a number of headwinds for road investment, in particular safety concerns from the loss of the hard shoulder of smart motorways, and the Net Zero decarbonisation objective.
There is also a question about the economic benefits of adding capacity to major roads. Recent cases of post-opening evaluation of smart motorway schemes showed gross discrepancies between traffic forecasts and projected economic benefits. The M25 Junctions 23-27 all-lane running scheme yielded reduced travel times one year after opening compared with before, but this time saving was negated by year two on account of unanticipated growth in traffic volumes. The M1 J10-13 dynamic hard shoulder running scheme generated lower speeds five years after opening compared with before, resulting in a negative benefit-cost ratio. These findings are consistent with the maxim that we can’t build our way out of congestion, which we know from experience to be generally true.
Inspection of the reports of the traffic and economic modelling of these and other road investments shows substantial projected economic benefits from travel time savings to business users. There are also time savings to local users, commuters and others, but these are entirely offset by increased vehicle operating costs – as motorists reroute to the motorway to save a few minutes travel time at the expense of increased fuel costs.
I suspect that this local rerouting is under-estimated in the traffic modelling generally. While long distance users of a motorway would be unlikely to change their route on account of local congestion, local users have the flexibility to do so. The wide adoption of ‘digital navigation’ (satnav location + digital maps + routing algorithms) that recommends shortest journey time routes increases the opportunities for local users to take advantage of increased motorway capacity. The screenshot from Google Maps illustrates the scope for rerouting of local traffic in the vicinity of the M25 J-23-27 smart motorway scheme.
Our understanding is limited because the evaluation of the outcome of a road scheme is based on monitoring total traffic volumes and speeds, whereas the modelling estimates the benefits to different classes of road user – cars, LGVs, HGVs, business users, non-business commuters and other local users. We could well have outcomes for which total traffic was exactly as forecast but where the composition was quite different from that projected, with more local trips at nil economic benefit displacing the intended longer distance business users, resulting in poor value for money.
Because we do not understand how the composition of traffic changes after a scheme is opened, we are not able to better calibrate our models to improve future traffic forecasts.
More generally, the widespread adoption of digital navigation is changing how the road network is used. The Department for Transport has substantially revised upwards its estimates of traffic on minor roads. This is most likely due to digital navigation making minor routes accessible to those without local knowledge, with the main impact adjacent to congested major roads where a minor road offers an alternative.
The impact of digital navigation has been strangely neglected by road authorities, transport analysts, practitioners, policy makers and researchers. The providers of digital navigation are secretive about the algorithms they use and their performance. The overall effect is to increase the capacity of the road network, but at the cost of more traffic on minor roads that are well suited to active travel. The lack of liaison between providers of navigation services and road authorities means that we are missing opportunities to improve outcomes for road users while reducing environmental harms, in particular when the network is under greatest stress on account of peak traffic volumes or major incidents.
So, in preparation for RIS3, I suggest actions to be initiated to inform future investment decisions:
Develop a more granular methodology for evaluation of road scheme outcomes, to understand the use made of additional capacity by local users.
Develop a better understanding of the impact of digital navigation on traffic patterns, to improve both modelling and network operations.
The roads sector needs to shift its focus from enlarging civil engineering structures to the digital management of traffic flows. Aviation exemplifies how to make best use of assets, both airlines and air traffic control optimising operations, with only exceptional additions to runway and terminal capacity
David Metz is an honorary professor at the UCL Centre for Transport Studies and will be speaking at Highways UK 2022 at the NEC in Birmingham on 2-3 November.
From the cost of materials to the impact of legislation and foreign tensions, Marie-Claude Hemming, director of operations at The Civil Engineering Contractors Association, outlines what the future holds for contractors.
Marie-Claude Hemming, Director of Operations, CECA
The Government’s radical proposals for reforming the UK’s procurement process will be published in a Bill which goes before Parliament later this year.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association believes the reforms – if implemented in the spirit in which they are intended – will lead to a reduction in the cost of public procurement and projects which deliver long term social and economic value.
The policy aims will also introduce a simplified approach and clearer route of delivery, allowing the market to arrange itself accordingly.
CECA played an active role in submitting evidence to the Government’s consultation last year, and we note that many of our members’ concerns have been reflected in its response to the Green Paper which was published just before Christmas.
As we look towards the publication of the Bill, CECA will continue to ask members for their views to ensure our engagement with MPs and Peers is totally reflective of our membership.
We are currently seeking particular clarification on the operation of the proposed Dynamic Markets system and on open and closed frameworks and call for industry views to aid our lobbying as the Bill progresses in Parliament.
We will also work with Government to ensure measures introduced to address payment challenges are easy to manage.
We anticipate that the legislation will also embed the principles of the Construction Playbook and the independent review of frameworks, published by Professor David Mosey and the Cabinet Office onto the statute books.
The publication of the Construction Playbook is the result of substantial collaboration across both the public and private sectors to share learning and best practice. It is focused on getting projects and programmes right from the start and is based on a series of key principles and policies to change how government assesses, procures and manages public works projects and programmes.
This means changing public sector attitudes to risk, driving sustainability, and innovation across projects and programmes, learning from existing examples of excellent delivery and bringing the right people together at the very start.
To complement this client step change, industry and its supply chain must also demonstrate and deliver continuous improvement in safety, cost, speed and quality of delivery, data sharing, and training.
Professor David Mosey’s Constructing the Gold Standard: An Independent Review of Public Sector Construction Frameworks sets out 24 ‘Gold Standard’ recommendations, reflecting a range of reflect a range of policies in the Playbook with detailed supporting actions, designed to improve the outcomes delivered by framework strategies, and to avoid the pitfalls of bureaucratic and inconsistent practices.
Clients are already at various stages of the implementing the principles of the Playbook, which was published just over a year ago. The general consensus is that the Playbook is beneficial to the whole of industry, in terms of improving delivery, effective use of resources and improving social value.
CECA members have welcomed the adoption of Playbook principles by some of our key clients. We note however, continued challenges experienced in obtaining meaningful data from client pipelines, combined with unbalanced investment cycles. This makes it increasingly hard to plan and manage resource across all company projects, with a lack of consistency in standardised pipeline information adding to the confusion.
The Construction Playbook has a three-year implementation plan, after which, CECA hopes that all clients, including local authorities and the private sector will be fully adopting the Playbook model, driving efficiencies, innovation and growth for the long term.
2022 will be a busy year for civil engineering contractors with global tensions exacerbating ongoing issues over the cost of materials and shortages of labour.
Notably, CECA is especially concerned over the UK Government’s removal of the tax rebate on the red fuel used by construction businesses in their plant and machinery in April.
We have consistently supported the aims of the policy, which are to reduce emissions and help meet net zero goals but have always stated that delivering greener growth must work for businesses and the consumer.
The legislation also removes the rebate for cleaner fuels. With greener plant and machinery not yet available at scale in the UK or in Europe, firms will simply switch to standard white fuel.
Before the outbreak of the war between Russia and the Ukraine, we estimated that the removal of the red fuel rebate would cost industry up to £500 million a year and each SME construction firm between £250,000 and £600,000 per annum.
Given the current crisis, these costs will now be much higher, with firms seeking to get back any loss in revenue from consumers and taxpayers.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association continues to support the policy’s aims, but now is not the right time to implement this change. We are calling on Government to delay the introduction of the rules for twelve months to ensure we can continue to Build Back Better in increasingly challenging times.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association is an official partner of Highways UK, find out more information on their upcoming projects by visiting their website: https://www.ceca.co.uk/
CECA’s Marie-Claude Hemming will be speaking at Highways UK this year on 2-3 November at the NEC in Birmingham.
National Highways has been working with the government’s Project Speed infrastructure taskforce to develop ways of accelerating the delivery of major road schemes, making it says National Highways’ director David Haimes, “an exciting and challenging opportunity for us and our suppliers to transform how we work together”
Rebuilding the economy and levelling up the country are two of the great opportunities and challenges for us in the highways industry. The Prime Minister announced the Build Back Better, Faster, Greener initiative last year. Since then National Highways has been working with the government’s Project Speed infrastructure taskforce to develop ways of accelerating the delivery of major road schemes.
So far we have almost halved the timeline for the construction period of the £1 billion A66 trans-Pennine road upgrade, from ten years to five. We’ll achieve the time savings, together with our supply chain partners, by using even more modular and offsite construction practices.
We’ve also taken a detailed look at the A66 project timelines to see where we can shift activity to the left and fast track work streams. For example, site investigation and archaeology work have been undertaken within the preliminary design stage. This will support a robust development consent order (DCO).
But the A66 is only a pathfinder for what we want to do next with our supply chain colleagues. Working with the Department for Transport, we want reduce the time it takes to develop, design and deliver. We’ll use new processes that modernise our approach and remove obstacles to progress. And we want to streamline how we run major projects in National Highways, working with our public and private delivery partners. We’ll be looking to embed delivery innovations like those we have used on the A66 and A14.
So the challenge for the highways sector is to accelerate the economic, social and road user benefits by delivering faster. To create and enable new jobs, better connect businesses with customers, and make social and holiday journeys easier for families and friends. And to add social value to local communities and improve the environment around our network.
There is an exciting and challenging opportunity for us and our suppliers to transform how we work together, and connect the country even more quickly and efficiently.
David Haimes is joint director of National Highways’ Regional Investment Programme and is leading the company’s work on accelerating infrastructure delivery. Suppliers will learn much more when David unveils the plan alongside Philip Andrews, Deputy Director of Strategic Roads at the Department for Transport, in the National Highways Theatre at Highways UK on 3 November, at 14.40 – 15.15
This year’s National Pothole Day secured coverage across national print and broadcast media, putting a much-needed spotlight on the worsening pothole funding crisis. Paul Fleetham, Managing Director of Tarmac Contracting argues that even in the throes of Covid-19, National Pothole Day still matters.
As we all dig deep in lockdown 3.0, you may feel there are more things to worry about at the moment than potholes. I agree that a surging pandemic and too many people suffering does not compare.
But even in the throes of Covid-19, National Pothole Day still matters because the state of our local roads has national and local social and economic importance.
Well maintained local roads underpin our communities and economies, they represent 98 per cent of the network and are used in almost every journey. They help support improved social outcomes – allowing for faster and more reliable journeys, boosting local businesses and serving all road users. A good quality local road is also central to encouraging people to take greener forms of transport such as cycling and buses. Getting our roads up to a high standard is part of building back better.
As we make the case for more investment in local roads, here’s a few additional thoughts from me to consider at the start of 2021.
Investment in local roads is being made but long term certainty to plan is key
The Spending Review committed £1.125 billion of local roads maintenance funding in 2021-22, including £500 million for the Potholes Fund to fix potholes and resurface roads. This is welcome but it’s critical that these pledges are met with longer-term commitments and sustained periods of ring-fenced investment, as most of all local councils need certainty to plan and implement essential maintenance programmes. Only a complete asset management approach to our highways will deliver the improvements that are needed and ensure that the local road network is no longer treated as a second-class asset.
Devolution will give metro mayors powers and they must support local roads
For metro mayors it’s a case of when, and not if, infrastructure powers will be given to them. The National Infrastructure Strategy unveiled late last year is supportive of greater infrastructure powers for mayors, but their hands are tied until Government sets out expanded devolution arrangements in the English Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper. When this happens there will be a good opportunity for metro mayors to invest in high quality local roads which support other infrastructure and development plans across city regions.
Investing in the local road asset delivers an economic return too
Against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the undoubted challenges to communities and the economy, I’m a great believer that UK infrastructure delivery and particularly highways projects can support economic recovery. Investing in local roads provides an immediate economic stimulus to local economies – this is shovel ready work that is not waiting for planning red tape.
We need to always think about our roads in terms of social outcomes
Intelligent local authority clients assemble condition data but also look at this information in the context of assessing the social impact of failing roads across their network. We’ve previously worked with councils where they’ve made the case for more investment in the asset based on a matrix of social impacts. Ultimately they showed how a well-maintained network was essential to underpinning their wider goal of delivering better social outcomes for its citizens. Councils are facing an incredibly uncertain time but there’s scope to do more assessment like this to help build the investment case.
National Pothole Day in 2021 was very different to previous years and there are other issues that are greatly affecting our way of life. But the economic and social value of this asset that we all depend on should not be forgotten.
In support of National Pothole Day Tarmac has launched a new online guide to pothole repair. It includes details of award-winning asphalts such as Ultipatch Sitemix, winner of Highways Industry Product of the Year in 2018. It also includes repair materials designed specifically to cure and harden more quickly in wet conditions, making them ideal for the British weather.
Read Tarmac’s guide to pothole repairs
Paul Fleetham is managing director of Tarmac Contracting. Tarmac is newly confirmed as a Platinum sponsor at this year’s Highways UK taking place at the NEC Birmingham on 3-4 November.
Author: Peter Mildon – COO and Co-Founder, Vivacity Labs
Peter Mildon, COO and Co-Founder of Vivacity Labs, has been reviewing data from Vivacity’s national network of AI-based video road sensors to assess the impact of Covid-19 on our highways networks on a daily basis, and considers what the long-term impact of Covid-19 will be on the UK’s transport habits in light of the climate emergency.
When we founded Vivacity in late 2015, one of our objectives was to make a positive impact to the way people used the roads in the UK. Our initial focus was on developing a cyclist sensor capable of operating on a truly multi-modal road space, in the hope that it would be used to encourage the modal shift away from polluting vehicles towards active travel.
Almost as a by-product of needing to positively identify other modes in order to differentiate them from cyclists, our sensor diversified into the full multi-modal sensor it is today. In 2016, we won Highways UK’s Intelligent Infrastructure Hub competition for the new technology most likely to revolutionise the transport industry.
At the time, I never imagined that the sensor network we had started to grow would prove so useful in helping at a time of national crisis, and less still that it would be used to monitor the impact government messaging aimed at reducing pedestrian and cyclist numbers in urban areas.
Over the past two weeks, we have been monitoring the impact on road usage during the Covid-19 outbreak. By Wednesday 25 March, there had been a 60% reduction in traffic across the country. While some regions saw a quicker reduction in traffic numbers than others last week, since the lockdown on Monday 23 March, this reduction has been remarkably uniform from city to city, and from urban area to highway. Analysing the change by mode also yielded some interesting results:
• Pedestrians saw the largest drop off at 80%
• Car traffic dropped by 60%
• Cyclists initially dropped very slowly, but since Monday have now dropped by 75%
• Light Goods vehicles dropped by 45%
• Initially there was no change seen in Motorbike or HGV volumes, but since Monday they have dropped by 65% and 40% respectively
• Even buses have now dropped by 40% since the lockdown, indicating significant reductions in public transport services
The results clearly presented a drop in total traffic, but also a modal shift towards home deliveries.
Michael Vardi from Valerann, the 2017 Intelligent Infrastructure Hub winner, has reported similar traffic level drops from Israel and Spain, where Valerann’s Smart Road System is also monitoring traffic movements.
In Oxfordshire, we decided to push the analysis further. Our sensor network here has not just been recording the volume of traffic, but also the path that each road user was taking across the space. We decided to post-process the data to calculate if social distancing measures were being followed.
It has been discussed a lot in the media recently whether the government should be using mobile data to monitor social distancing. Many people are concerned that such an invasion of civil liberties might not be un-done once the crisis was over. This type of video analysis provides an alternative, which is non-invasive from a privacy perspective and offers a much higher resolution on the social distancing measurement. By using edge processing, no personal data is ever generated by the system – no videos are transmitted or stored, and the AI never knows who it saw. Instead we are able simply to acquire the data that is needed to help the Government make decisions on how its lockdown policy should adapt next.
The social distancing analysis showed that by 24 March, less than 48 hours after the Prime Minister announced a lockdown, peak daily pedestrian interactions had dropped by 70%, and the morning rush-hour peak was no longer discernible.
Clearly, Covid-19 is having a profound impact on all of our daily lives and has changed the approach to work for the majority of the UK work force. The question remains; what happens when all of this is over? Will everyone go back to their daily commute, or will companies finally realise that work can be done just as efficiently, and just as securely from home?
Given the climate emergency, I hope we don’t see road traffic demand bounce back to the ‘pre-Covid’ peaks. I was also reassured to see that demand for cycling initially held up compared with other non-delivery modes – perhaps this has encouraged some individuals to try cycling rather than take public transport, at least in the early stages of social distancing. When this is all over, hopefully some positives can grow from this major international crisis.
Author: Jon Cole, Head of Pavement Efficiency and Productivity, Highways England
Our pavement efficiency journey started with a workshop in September 2015 in recognition that the way we delivered pavement needed to contribute significantly to the RIS1 capital efficiency KPI (target £1.2BN). Representatives from our Operations Directorate and our supply chain were present, and this set the context and agenda for how the Pavement Efficiency Group or PEG, as it affectionately became known, would work to challenge both Highways England and the supply chain to recognise efficiency opportunities through the delivery of pavement works.
Our story is one of technical excellence and true collaboration with the supply chain to enable pavement efficiencies across the different delivery programmes of Highways England; and, to align their goals to the safety, customer and delivery imperatives of Highway England.
As a delivery team we’ve tried to think of this as a change programme, we always knew that the technical side was only part of what we had to deliver; engaging with delivery teams, and especially designers, to buy in to what we were proposing was the challenge. We’ve occasionally found it difficult to get passed traditional ways of thinking and this has shaped our engagement, making it simple, visual and impactful so our messages were clear and connected to the overall objective of achieving the challenge of KPI7.
We’ve created technical content in an engaging way through digital integration that forms the basis of our engagement approach and we have embraced different media to share our message and ideas across the entire pavement delivery community. We’ve used lean tools to help our outward facing engagement and planning and adopted simple, visual and engaging content that is easy to understand and implement. Our single source of content is hosted in Prezi and can be accessed by anyone; it is live and periodically reviewed and updated.
Our pavement efficiency levers have been tailored to align with the definition of an efficiency in the Efficiency and Inflation Monitoring Manual which governs our work and we have developed 37 levers that can be used either in isolation or in combination depending on the project or delivery function. Working jointly with SES from an early stage was key to the long-term success of PEG, to ensure that they were supportive of what we were promoting. As a result, we structured the project with our lead technical expertise partnered with SES gaining their strategic alignment.
To promote the levers, the team has embedded itself in the various efficiency meetings around the country, and across all delivery programmes, gaining a unique insight into the different challenges of individual projects and programmes; actively sharing knowledge across them. This had led to cross programme learning and the adoption of several efficiency levers in different programmes.
The pavement efficiency technical partner has engaged directly with over 50 delivery teams across Major Projects and Operations programmes. Part of our engagement is to discover best practice and we’ve taken the best practice from Operations and shared it with Major Projects and vice versa whilst adding these ideas to our toolkit.
To date £352m pavement efficiencies have been level 2 assured with a further c£70m awaiting assurance. These efficiencies are evidenced through project level efficiency registers and validated by the Central Efficiency Group. In exceeding the challenging target of £350m in this RIS period, positions our team well to continue sharing best practices in pavement delivery to also continue meeting the efficiency targets of future Road Investment periods, having created a legacy of continuous improvement.
Jon Cole, Head of Pavement Efficiency and Productivity, Highways England
Jon along with James Burdall, Associate Director of AECOM, will explore some of the technical innovations achieved through PEG within the Civils and Materials Dome at 16.30 on 6 November. Additionally Jon will address the process of achieving a step change, at the Burges Salmon stage at 13.30 on 7 November
Author: Tony Gosling – Chief Digital Officer, Pell Frischmann
The design of highway schemes would be improved if designers and decision makers could easily understand the cost, time, risk and disruption impacts of individual design choices
The traditional process doesn’t work like that. Designers work with little to no data on the real-life impact of options, then costing and time scheduling are done separately after the design without the trade-offs between time and cost being visible.
We find that elapsed time in construction is often a more significant driver of costs than traditional estimating process allows for; costs of the project team, road closure and equipment are all proportional to time and, in some cases, work expands to fill the time available and delays ripple through to all on-site labour as productivity drops.
This is something that we, in Pell Frischmann, have been trying to change. With an approach we call 5D Way of Working (5D WoW), a digitally enabled process that brings rapidly available time and cost information into a more iterative workflow, and brings design for constructability, value and maintainability into focus. In our work on buildings, we find that this can drive a better value design and construction process, reduce the duration of construction and reduce the disruption to road users.
One of the major issues we must solve to make the 5DWoW process work is having decent data on the actual costs and time of similar projects to use in estimating. Captured data in the industry, often stuck in a project data silo, can’t easily be combined and is not structured consistently, thus is hard to compare. Even the simple act of comparing the project estimates with the project actuals, as well as understanding why the project is late and over budget, is rarely done. If we want to get better at estimating and designing, then being able to learn continuously from each project and feeding that knowledge back into better estimates and better designs is crucial.
A new source of road construction data that we are starting to make use of can be collected using drones and processed automatically in the cloud into survey grade, accurate progress tracking for large linear infrastructure like highways.
We are working with the pioneering tech company Datumate that has developed market-leading drone and project cloud processing services that measure progress and variance between as-designed and as-built. It is usually cheaper than traditional surveys, but also generates more rich and consistent data. Deutsche Bahn have been using Datumate to monitor rail construction, both for progress, and for quality and to deliver as-built data. The system even allows project managers to ‘go back in time’ to see what the site looked like and make measurements that you didn’t know you were going to need – this can be very helpful in resolving claims and disputes.
Using that sort of data from drones, processed by a cloud service, for measuring progress on highways projects better will help enhance project delivery. Then using that data to improve estimating and design decisions in future projects can make a huge difference to delivering cost-effective highway schemes on time.
Whether you agree or disagree, or want to understand more about what drone data can be used for Pell Frischmann and Datumate will be at Highways UK; join us for a coffee at the Recharge Lounge.
Tony Gosling is Chief Digital Officer at Pell Frischmann. John Pickworth, Pell Frischmann’s Intelligent Transport Director and Tal Meirzon, CEO, of Datumate will explore this exciting application of drone technology at speaking at the Burges Salmon Stage on Thursday 7 November at 12.40.
Author: Karla Wakeman, Innovation Lead for Connected Transport, Innovate UK
Winston Churchill once said “never, never, never give up”. A good moto for us all and often applies to finding funding for your projects and innovations.
We witness this often at Innovate UK and although it can mean something as simple as the funding pot for that competition ran dry, as frustrating as it can be, the feedback from our expert, independent assessors can often be instrumental in making sure you are at the top for the next funding pot.
Our process is thorough but not always simplistic, nor should it be as we offer millions of pounds of tax payers money so want it to be transparent and effective to get the best projects funded.
So what can you do to give yourselves the best shot?
Assessors are always keen to see the value for money. Whether you are asking for £10k or £10m, does your application clearly demonstrate maximum return on the investment? Assessors are a savvy bunch and if you are asking for £10m for something which should cost £9m, they will pick it up.
With the current political climate, we are always on the lookout for projects which can go large when it comes to international opportunities.
· Does your project have the potential to be world leading?
· Closer to home, can it be successfully exploited in the UK?
In my experience as an Innovation Lead, the best projects look at exploitation from not just day one but way before as part of the application. Plans change, but to demonstrate you have considered exploitation shows project potential.
Read the scope
Another common mistake is where the innovation is not at the right stage of development for the particular competition. If the competition states it is looking to fund ready-to-go pilots, if you apply with a feasibility study proposal, you won’t be funded and will be considered out of scope.
Check the scope clearly, especially where TRL (Technology readiness Levels) are mentioned.
You might not be applying to us for public funds but regardless, the next piece of advice should still be considered.
· Why should public money be spent on this? (Or in the case of private funding, why should they invest?)
It is imperative that you can define this and explain the additionality that will be achieved. What are you offering that others aren’t?
If you clearly define the above whilst answering the questions in the application (many don’t!), you will be on your way to joining thousands of successfully funded projects such as those funded by Highways England through Innovate UK.
Highways England and SBRI
An SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) enables government departments like Highways England to connect with technology organisations, finding innovative solutions to specific public sector challenges and needs.
In this instance, Highways England is investing up to £20 million across two parallel SBRI competitions to develop innovative ideas and solutions. These projects have been funded to change the way UK roads are designed, managed and used and the 23 successful projects will be displaying on our Innovation Hub at Highways UK.
The scope of this competition was purposely broad covering the following themes:-
· Theme 1: Design, construction and maintenance – Construction site safety and efficiency
· Theme 2: Connected and Autonomous Vehicles – Getting roads ready for AV including maintenance vehicles
· Theme 4: Energy & Environment – Energy savings, noise, circular economy
· Theme 5: Operations – Managing road demand and quality
· Theme 6: Air Quality
In the competition process, the 23 projects which have been funded embraced the challenges that Highways England are trying to solve. They demonstrated value for money for Highways England, exploitation potential and clear additionality over and above the normal course of business.
At Innovate UK, we use our tried and tested competition process to drive productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. It is rare that any two competitions are the same as we always strive for excellence but for certain, when it comes to supporting getting the best innovative projects for UK Plc, we never, never, never give up.
Karla Jakeman is Innovation Lead for Connected Transport at Innovate UK, Highways UK’s Innovation Partner. Come to the Innovation Hub to meet representatives and learn more about many of the successful projects from the recent Highways England SBRI competitions.