Urban Trees, Highways and Utilities – Hannah Cook, GreenBlue Urban

Urban Trees, Highways and Utilities – Hannah Cook, GreenBlue Urban

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.

The Challenges:

  • 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.

“Bringing the environment into the picture” – How local authorities can add a new dimension to highways asset management – Andy Peart, Yotta

“Bringing the environment into the picture” – How local authorities can add a new dimension to highways asset management – Andy Peart, Yotta

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

Questions about the value of investment in roads – David Metz, UCL Centre for Transport Studies

Questions about the value of investment in roads – David Metz, UCL Centre for Transport Studies

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.

David Metz Blog

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:

  1. Develop a more granular methodology for evaluation of road scheme outcomes, to understand the use made of additional capacity by local users.
  2. 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. 

www.drivingchange.org.uk

 

 

Delivering 21st century roads – Marie-Claude Hemming, The Civil Engineering Contractors Association

Delivering 21st century roads – Marie-Claude Hemming, The Civil Engineering Contractors Association

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. 

Accelerating delivery of big infrastructure

Accelerating delivery of big infrastructure

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”

david haimes
David Haimes, National Highways’ Regional Investment Programme Director

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

 

Why National Pothole Day matters in the age of Covid-19

Why National Pothole Day matters in the age of Covid-19

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.
Using AI to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on our Highways

Using AI to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on our Highways

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. 

Example of measurement between pedestrians calculated with pedestrians coming within 2m of each other counted from stock footage. Red shows <2m; Yellow 2-3m; and green >3m

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. 

Number of pedestrians passing within 2m of another pedestrian within the field of view of our 78 sensors in Oxfordshire per 5 minutes. Blue: Week commencing 8 March, Orange: Week commencing 15 March, Green: Week commencing 22 March. Data provided up to 24 March

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. 

 

Creating a legacy of continuous improvement

Creating a legacy of continuous improvement

Author: Jon Cole, Head of Pavement Efficiency and Productivity, Highways England

Jon Cole

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

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A new source of road construction data

A new source of road construction data

Author: Tony Gosling – Chief Digital Officer, Pell Frischmann

Tony Gosling

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.

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Never, never, never give up

Never, never, never give up

Author: Karla Wakeman, Innovation Lead for Connected Transport, Innovate UK

Karla Wakeman

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 3: Customer Mobility – Improved customer experience

·      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.

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Connecting the Constructors

Connecting the Constructors

Author: Neil Williams – Engineering & Infrastructure Segment Manger, Leica Geosystems

Neil Williams

Despite the current political uncertainty, we are seeing record investment from Highways England channelled through initiatives such as the Regional Development Partnership frameworks and the Smart Motorways Programme.

This investment is vital because our strategic roads network is one of the most valuable national assets we have. It is fundamental to economic growth.

The problem we face is that major projects are notoriously risky, complex, costly and high-profile. Experience tells us they are prone to exceeding budget and are broadly, extremely challenging to deliver. What compounds this outlook is that more than four million people rely on the Highways England strategic road network every day and that figure is set to rise by 40% from now to 2040.

Attempting to deliver this ambitious pipeline of work without refreshing our approach to construction will create major impacts across the country. Major projects will continue to be known as challenging, costly and ultimately, risky investments. This will mean that future investment will come into question and potentially put the country behind.

As a manufacturer looking at the industry, we are seeing wonderful pockets of innovation that are beginning to overcome the well-versed challenges facing major projects. Whether that is by streamlining workflows, increasing the ability to share accurate data between different teams or driving collaboration across multiple stakeholders.

At Highways UK this year we will be hosting the people and the organisations who are overcoming these challenges. You will hear from Skanska’s Survey Manager Mark Lawton presenting connected construction and smart paving. We will also be joined by Severn Partnership’s Managing Director Rollo Rigby highlighting mobile mapping on the A38 and Getmapping’s Business Manager Neil Rennie showcasing motorway surveys on the M20.

Join them, hear their story and understand their approach on stand B60. Follow @LeicaGeo_UKI on Twitter for the latest timetable updates.

You’ll find our full programme of events at Leica Geosystems’ stand within the exhibitor events listings

Neil Williams is Engineering & Infrastructure Segment Manger at Leica Geosystems

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It’s time to get to grips with digital

It’s time to get to grips with digital

Author: Lesley Waud – Transport Design Development Director, SNC-Lavalin Atkins

Lesley Waud

By people, I really mean a culture and a mindset: a perception by many that doing things ‘digitally’ is a threat to long-held technical specialism or expertise. But I don’t see it in those terms. To me, the risk is in us not helping people embrace the benefits of using digital systems and processes in their work. As leaders, it’s up to us to empower our teams to use technology as an enabler, and it’s up to us to have the appetite and desire to show leadership as to why doing things differently now matters.

That means upskilling our workforce and helping people who may be resistant to change by providing the right support and opportunities for them to develop. It’s about reassuring them that digital transformation isn’t a threat, but an opportunity to learn new skills to equip us to face the digital future. If we don’t tackle this issue now, the discourse will continue to be dominated by those that would rather tell you all the reasons for not doing something, rather than finding ways you can – which alienates those who are eager to adopt new technology, and who are snapping at our heels to use it.

When we deploy digital processes to carry out repetitive activities it frees up our valuable time and lets us focus on what really adds value for our clients. At a recent presentation to clients, an Atkins engineer told of how he and his team had developed a simple algorithm that could come up with literally thousands of design options in a fraction of the time it would take for them to develop one design had they been using traditional, passive methods. The algorithm now helps inform their decisions at each stage of the design process – while outsourcing the time-consuming task of data processing – so that the team can dedicate more of their time to what’s important: validating the findings, assessing the best options, and improving the ultimate final design. In short, applying their expertise to the higher-value end area of the process.

Embracing digital doesn’t mean the prestige of a career in design and engineering is diminished. Today, we are fortunate that we have game-changing digital technology to support our tasks, that many before us simply haven’t had access to, so let’s capitalise on that, and use it to our advantage.

The second barrier to digital transformation within our industry is commercial models, and how they are structured; in fact, in my view this is a serious barrier to digital transformation happening at all. This is where we must start thinking very differently: we need to reshape commercial models, root and branch, a tough ask, perhaps, as many clients are still comfortable with current models based on unit cost and input of effort, as opposed to thinking how, as an industry, we might link cost instead to the value of the service. We need to redistribute value earlier in the process and capitalise on the benefit of doing so.

We need to start asking how we can create components and constituent parts of a project – supported by digital transformation – that are compatible and that can be configured more intelligently so they have a life afterwards. We need to be asking: how could we break a project down into components that allow an element of selection, for example, like choosing from a car brochure, without reverting to bespoke designs for every element, and whereby certain design elements can be reused?

Take motorway construction, for example: there’s a perception that if you have a one-size-fits-all approach, you’d be wasting material because it would be overdesigned for the majority of circumstances. But in reality, we know that we don’t necessarily save material by designing precise components for a single location due to the challenges we face on site in achieving a consistent quality in variable conditions and not using surplus materials – for example, the partial concrete load that goes to waste. By manufacturing a standardised solution, offsite, even if it’s going to be oversized in some circumstances, it will have been manufactured in a very controlled environment, and with very precise material quantities and quality control. So already, significantly less material is wasted compared with building it from scratch on-site.

However, if payment and the measurement of value is linked to time and materials, we will not recover the considerable investments we are making and will continue to make in transforming our industry.  A single standard solution that will add considerable benefit needs to have its value linked to the outcomes it enables rather than the input effort in creating and, importantly, maintaining the relevance of the product and we all need to work together to create long-term sustainable future models for our industry.

The good news is, some of our clients’ responses to the government’s agenda to do things differently and drive productivity have been very positive. We are already seeing some good, early examples of commercial models that incentivise suppliers, based on results. I believe our clients want more digital solutions to infrastructure questions, and that they want to improve productivity. But to get this right in the long term we need to get real and stop mixing old-world commercial models and behaviours with new expectations.

If we’re serious about innovative solutions, we must grasp the opportunities of working to innovative commercial models – and that means being emboldened by the transformative powers of digital technology, not threatened by it. When we do so, we will not only uphold our professional status, but it will also mean we may collectively share in the added-value of a project’s lifecycle.

Seven things we can start doing right now…

1.         See digital as a game-changer that can support traditional roles

2.         Understand, guide and develop those fearful of change

3.         Foster new digital behaviours and upskilling, such as knowledge-sharing

4.         Reshape commercial models to encourage digital ways of working

5.         Use digital to encourage value through standardising components

6.         Use digital to behave and act more sustainably

7.         Procure services in smarter and more sustainable ways

Lesley Waud is design development director for transportation at Atkins, part of the SNC-Lavalin Group. Lesley will be exploring these themes further as part of the Big Thinking programme at Highways UK on 6/7 November.

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The role of roads on the road to net-zero carbon emissions

The role of roads on the road to net-zero carbon emissions

Author: Adam Crossley – Adam Crossley, head of environment and strategy, Skanska UK

Adam Crossley

Even if you are not a big advocate of fighting climate change you can’t help but notice how it is increasingly on the agenda everywhere – whether it’s protests in Parliament, the Prime Minister committing the UK to net-zero emissions by 2050, or the latest David Attenborough documentary.

This is a serious challenge. And it is not going away. What does it mean for the highways sector? If done right, it could make the sector more attractive to road users and future talent while making it more efficient.

Let’s start with understanding how the sector contributes to climate change, which it does significantly, and how each emission source can be de-carbonised to zero.

Firstly, there is the traffic. Everything from family cars to heavy haulage, and all those petrol and diesel emissions. This is going to be de-carbonised by wholesale take-up of electric and hydrogen transport over the next two decades. Throw in the advance of autonomous vehicle technology along with the need for new electric and hydrogen charging infrastructure and we could have an entirely new network, along with entirely new safety and customer service challenges. At Skanska, we just installed 67 charging points at our UK head office, enabling more new electric vehicles on the network, and that is just what we are doing. But everyone in the sector has a part to play in how the network will change.

Secondly, there is road building and maintenance, and everything that goes with it. Construction stuff. At Skanska that is what we do. Making roads, building bridges, maintaining the network. That’s a lot of material and a lot of plant and equipment. There are three primary sources of emissions from doing that.  There are emissions from electricity we use for fabricating steel, producing cement, using power tools, powering a depot, and so on. There are chemical emissions from the cement binding process itself. And then there are all the construction and maintenance vehicles we use, generating petrol and diesel emissions.

So how do we tackle all that?

Some of it will be tackled at source. Over time, the UK will de-carbonise electricity production, so whatever we use will be carbon free. The steel and cement industry will develop commercially viable carbon capture solutions, like one in development at Drax power station, which suck carbon out of the air before it gets into the atmosphere. And eventually there won’t be diesel dumpers and petrol vans, vehicles will all be electric and hydrogen.

But for the highways sector to adapt to the challenge of climate change we cannot wait for other industries to do the job for us. We need to set a vision for a sector net-zero target which the entire highways supply chain can support. And we need to map out how we can drive carbon reductions at a faster rate and use carbon as a different way to reduce costs while increasing innovation.

How can we use fewer materials by designing more efficiently? How can we accelerate bringing electric and hydrogen vehicles into our own fleets? How can we collaborate with innovators to speed up the uptake of zero carbon transport technology? How can we use new construction techniques, like off-site manufacture? How can we understand carbon with better data, and target opportunities where we can reduce carbon and cost at the same time?

It all starts with a target that the sector can invest in achieving. At Skanska we have committed to operating with net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, and that includes all emissions from the materials we use and the supply chain working with us. We have mapped out the detail of how we think that will happen, so we know where to invest and what to focus on. And, crucially, our supply chain know they are part of it and need to collaborate with us.

Imagine if there were a highways net-zero target and the major players used it to incentivise collaboration and innovation across the supply chain. How many more talented people would want to join our sector to help? How many more innovations would be uncovered to transform the way we work? How much more efficient and productive could we be?

And, how much quicker could the UK’s highways be world-leading examples of a digitally enabled zero carbon network?

Adam Crossley, head of environment and strategy at Skanska UK

Skanska is Highways UK’s sustainability partner and sponsor of the Sustainability Theatre at Highways UK on 6/7 November. It is also collaborating with Highways UK to help us make the event more sustainable. We understand that this is not an immediate ‘fix’ and we will have to progressively change not only our own, but importantly also the behaviours of our supply chain, clients and visitors. We’ll be telling you more on that later, but in the meantime, you’ll find more information on our approach including our sustainability policy and strategy here

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You can’t do Big Data if you can’t do Small Data

You can’t do Big Data if you can’t do Small Data

Author: Brian Fitzpatrick – Brian Fitzpatrick, Founder, Fitzpatrick Advisory

Brian Fitzpatrick

The future of our infrastructure is digital, but just who is best placed to build the local authority capability to manage this revolution?

Who will look after the impact of decisions made by assets self-reporting their condition, and automatically informing investment priorities? Who is going to look out for the needs of our citizens as we enter the age of automated design, and algorithmic prioritisation?

Will we build that capability ourselves in our highways maintenance sector? Is that the right thing to do, or will we (whisper it quietly given the current environment) outsourcethis transformation?

For many highways authorities, using the software tools and data management platforms that can best process, analyse, translate and turn highways data into meaningful information is a mystical, expensive and time-consuming process, and they don’t have enough resources now.

The way data and information is collected, and used in day-to-day maintenance activity is inefficient in the first place, and rooted in historical ‘analogue’ practice eg inefficiencies arise from

 · different proprietary information systems and platforms in use which don’t talk to each other

a lack of standardisation of paper and computer processes and tools

· collecting the same condition data every year but only utilising a small percentage of it

· a fragmented value chain around the delivery of services

· poor information connectivity and flow, lots of activity duplication

· relatively immature data architecture in local government

· the consequential high cost of data collection and recollection

· limited analysis (and time for analysis) of data, to turn data into information, and from that gain insight to improve service and enable innovation

· little time for customer needs or priorities beyond making sure the road surface is fit

It doesn’t have to be that way but currently for many authorities it just is.

Big Data is the ability to connect and use all of the collected information ‘out there’to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions, and thus make better decisions around infrastructure investment and operations.

Big Data is going to be increasingly relevant to the way we plan, invest in, and manage our highways networks going forward as the number of sensors capturing, processing and reporting information grows, exponentially, in the next few years.

If local highways authorities alreadyhave at their disposal lots of other relevant data than just the inventory and condition available to them, but don’t use that properly, then what is the point of being able to collect more data if we can’t use it?

An additional concern is that although highways officers and service providers were amongst the ‘early adopters’ of digital technology, they now face being left behind as the world moves on and huge corporations are heavily investing in better understanding how data will be transmitted and harvestedfrom the infrastructure and asset platforms which local authorities currently maintain, which will lead to a natural interest in them owning or managing those networks.

I have no problem with who runs our networks, as long as they are managed properly and transparently. My concern is that by carrying on the way we are, highways authorities will miss out on the potential to themselves intelligently plan for and utilise ‘Big Data’ in the future, to the benefit of their local communities, and towns and cities. Or they will miss the right time to do it and we all then end up paying a hefty premium for a transformation to retro fit such capacity and capability.

Highways members, officers and infrastructure services providers need to ‘stay in the game’ and not be potentially marginalised. My question is if you can’t do Small Data efficiently and effectively now, how do you think you’ll be able to do Big Data in the future?

The revolution is coming, but getting it started in an equitable and transparent fashion, setting the ground rules for the way assets will be managed and our infrastructure maintained in the future, will need all of us, working together to define the way we want those decisions to be made.

Brian Fitzpatrick is founder of Fitzpatrick Advisory. He is speaking at Highways UK at the NEC on 6/7 November on achieving real change for the local highway network and overcoming the barriers that to date have limited reform

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Invest today to deliver the highway infrastructure of tomorrow

Invest today to deliver the highway infrastructure of tomorrow

The UK’s strategic road network is one of its most valuable national assets, key to our economic growth. Four million people use Highways England’s strategic road network each day, and this is forecast to grow by over 40% by 2040.

Just as an effective roads network is core to the country’s economic resilience, so this in turn must be underpinned by a skilled workforce. At Balfour Beatty, our expert teams have helped to deliver major strategic highways projects such the M4/M5 smart motorway upgrade, the A3 Hindhead Tunnel and the A21 upgrade scheme between Tonbridge and Pembury.

However, there is a widening disconnect between the number of skilled workers retiring and the number of young people entering the profession. It is imperative that we work to close the skills gap if we are to ensure the workforce required to efficiently build and maintain our roads in the long term.

The growth of initiatives like The 5% Club, an employer-led organisation whose members commit to achieving 5% of their workforce being in ‘earn and learn’ positions, is an encouraging step in the right direction. Apprenticeships are a vital route into work and we should build on the number of entry-level positions we offer, as well as attractive career progression opportunities.

Coupled with a skilled workforce, the development of innovative construction practices is essential to delivering the country’s major pipeline of forthcoming highways projects: Highways England is bringing forward record investment in roads through its £8.7 billion Regional Development Partnership framework for road improvements between 2018-2024, and a £6 billion 10-year Smart Motorways Programme.

We must modernise our construction methods to meet the challenge of delivering these essential investments in our highways. In Balfour Beatty’s recent paper entitled ‘Customer Driven: Delivering roads for the future’ we highlight the particular need for greater off-site manufacturing as one such solution.

The increased use of technology in road construction such as Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) is crucial to reducing on-site works. DfMA can reduce build time by 20-60% by allowing work on two or more phases of a highway scheme to take place simultaneously: while one part of the scheme is being completed onsite, the elements needed for the next phase can be constructed elsewhere. The highways industry needs to adapt the way it operates to see fewer but safer roadworks and shorter road closures across the board. This will not only increase the wellbeing of operatives undertaking roadworks, but also will improve customer experience while they are being delivered.

We recently put this into practice on the A14 Cambridge-Huntingdon improvement scheme, which is being delivered by Balfour Beatty, Skanska and Costain, where two 1,000 tonne bridges were constructed off-site and installed using a remote-controlled modular transporter. These forward-looking ways of delivering highways services ultimately allow us to move away from the traditional model of workers operating on the side of the road, thereby increasing safety for the workforce whilst reducing costs, reducing delivery time and reducing disruption to the general public.

A safe and suitable strategic road network is vital to connecting communities, delivering goods and keeping people moving up and down the country. As an industry we must invest in the resources required to deliver the significant pipeline of major highways schemes that are essential to shaping our modern infrastructure.

Phil Clifton, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty’s Highways business, is speaking on the Future of Mobility in the Main Theatre at 15.15 on 8 November

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Phil Clifton

Phil Clifton – Managing Director of Balfour Beatty’s Highways business

The vital ingredients for successful asset management

The vital ingredients for successful asset management

The challenges facing highway authorities seem to amount to an almost impossible conundrum. Peaks in public expectation are matched by troughs in central government funding for local infrastructure. As recently highlighted in a letter by a group of industry bodies to the chair of the Transport Select Committee, current funding plans mean that the SRN will receive 52 times more funding per mile than local highways, though local networks carry 64% of all road traffic.

The same letter highlights the need for improved governance as well as more money – and asset management is essentially a governance system. The ISO 55000 series contains a substantial number of challenging requirements, and the new Code of Practice is even heftier. Picking through the guidance, three vital ingredients emerge as essential for successful asset management.

The first of these is practicalrisk management, and there are several requirements relating to risk-based management in the new Code of Practice. Risk in management standards can seem obscurely theoretical, when asset managers need practicality, and practical risk management means ubderstanding and clearly stating what is at risk.

This might appear a statement of the obvious, but when describing a risk, something must clearly be at risk. In other words, “there’s a risk the maintenance backlog will increase” is not an effective argument for resources. There must be a “so what?” that relates clearly to organisational objectives. Not only does this ensure alignment of asset management activities with business goals, but it also makes sure that risks are articulated in a manner that makes sense to politicians, the public and those with the purse strings.

Corporate risk criteria for likelihood and consequence are the starting point for any risk-based approach. Asset management risks should be evaluated using the common currency needed to compare them with each other, and other types of risk. It is not sensible to create an independent highways-specific version of a risk matrix without referencing it back to the corporate set, assuming you need those without technical knowledge to understand risk consequences.

A successful risk-based approach means that you and your teams use risk as a tool to prioritise activities and allocate resources, as opposed to simply filling in your organisation’s risk spreadsheet. Having a stand-up discussion about the barriers in the way of delivery, and agreeing how they rate with risk evaluation criteria, is an effective way of aligning individual judgments and priorities and feeding into asset management plans.

The second vital ingredient for successful asset management relates to data. The Code of Practice has several recommendations for which a data strategy is a useful building block. A data strategy is:documented, detailed record of data needed to deliver objectives and manage risks to them;a risk-based prioritisation of that data; and aplan to obtain data that is missing, to mitigate the fact that data isn’t available, and to manage the existing data.

Do not wait until investing in a new set of surveys to create a data strategy. Do not assume that investment in a new maintenance management system will resolve the problem of data management. Create a data strategy and use it to drive investments in information.

Thirdly, the style of leadership needed for effective asset management is rooted in the fact that it is an outward-facing discipline, requiring co-ordination across most departments, often from a middle-management position.

Good asset management leaders do not sit isolated, producing a strategy that remains on a shelf. They are evangelists who describe a long-term vision for their organisation, and enough of the specific changes required to make that vision credible.

They present evidenced-based arguments for changing processes and understand how to make those arguments appeal to senior decision-makers and operational staff alike. They understand technical detail but also know when the detail is a distraction.

A good asset management leader is only rarely army-sergeant-major and more often car-salesman-with-integrity, if such a thing exists! This rare but essential leadership style is the third ingredient for successful asset management.

Claire Gowson will further outline the vital ingredients for successful asset management in the Tarmac Materials & Maintenance Dome at 11.30 on 7 November.

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Claire Gowson

Claire Gowson – Principal Consultant, Atkins

Joining up the good work

Joining up the good work

The highways sector has so far failed to move on from its traditional, largely manual ways of working. We have seen productivity flatline for over 20 years, struggled to deliver better customer service and communications and still impact the health, safety and wellbeing of our people through our working practices.

Collectively, we need a coherent industry-wide approach that combines our individual efforts, tackles the challenges we all face and delivers a highways sector that embraces the fourth industrial revolution. We need to learn from alternative industries away from the transport sector whose approaches are leading the way, such as Amazon’s 360 degree focus to improve technology which delivers greater customer service in a highly-competitive, rapidly-changing environment.

I want our industry to start this journey with Vision 2030. Investing in new initiatives and learning from other industry leaders, we can transform the highways sector.

We work in a people-centric business and I am passionate about the safety of my team. It cannot be right that we still ask our workforce to operate alongside a live carriageway.

For me, there are clear opportunities to remove our people from harm. We must harness the rapid advancement of technology and move quickly to use automation and digital solutions to deliver services differently. However, we must also build a supportive safety culture which enables our employees and our supply chain partners to protect themselves and others.

An engaged and empowered workforce is crucial in order to achieve Amey’s aim to create better places to live, work and travel, and Vision 2030 will achieve this.

To achieve results on a larger scale will mean breaking free from the siloes of technology to change the ‘resistance’ culture of the sector and the ways we operate. New technology is rife and right in front of us. The art of the possible is no longer the future but the here and now, and it gives us a massive opportunity to do things differently.

Across the industry, we are all working on isolated initiatives and Vision 2030 aims to join all of this good work up. The use of technology is giving us the opportunity to drive a culture shift across the sector. It is a culture shift that underpins not only greater efficiency, but also a new approach on health, safety and well-being. It also brings forward opportunities for greater diversity in our industry as the sector needs individuals with digital skills as well those with physical strength.

There is an understanding that change is needed. Vision 2030 focuses on what is required to achieve a notable shift in service delivery to engage and excite the next generation.

James Haluch is talking further about Vision 2030 on the Burges Salmon stage on Wednesday 7 November at 13.50

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James Haluch

James Haluch – Highways Managing Director, Amey

Transforming the narrative for better local roads

Transforming the narrative for better local roads

Costing £400Bn, local roads are the UK’s most valuable asset. As trades routes, roads they have been the life blood of economies for millennia. Thanks to buses, cars, coaches, bikes and walking, roads make possible access to education, health care and work.

More complex journeys and mode choices are possible on historic roads but with it have come the disease of obesity, toxic air and congestion – costing the UK over £50Bn each and every year. As one of Europe’s largest economies, Britain also has the largest waistline.

A high quality public realm is therefore essential to support walking and cycling. This will release road capacity for medium and longer distance trips that have no current alternative.

Society is however changing and just as car use has dominated the last few decades so now we see the rise of Mobility as a Service, increased rail travel and a marked reduction in car use by those under 35 in our main cities.

The absence of a UK freight strategy causes poor policy and planning on interurban choices and the neglect of the ‘last mile’ impacts the heart of towns and villages. New thinking is needed to support buses.

Funding, innovation, and collaboration

As a result of successive Comprehensive Spending Reviews, the last decade has seen local authority revenue budgets reduce by as much as 40% which has affected front line service delivery. However, over this period Local Government and particularly Local Highway Authorities have adapted, and adopted new technology to overcome the challenges faced through new techniques and low cost interventions.

Our understanding and application of Asset Management has also radically improved decision making. Detailed choices can be more simply presented as to how, within a specified budget, different local outcomes can be modelled and long term value ensured.

Responding to the recent Transport Select Committee inquiry into the funding and governance of local roads, the Local Government Technical Advisors Group identified five key priorities that many in the industry recognise as key to future success:

· Redefine the Pothole Backlog

· Multiyear settlement

· TotEx: tackling the revenue Vs Capital dilemma

· One Single Funding Stream for Highway Authorities

· Future of Condition Surveys and Asset Information

The UK must grasp the 4th Industrial Revolution – faster fibre under our roads and streetlights for 5G and car charging. The pace of change and expectation on Councils for ever more innovative thinking continues to grow.

Building resilience into the way we work

“Transforming the Narrative” seeks to create fresh thinking that applies technology and transformation to how we create more mobility on better quality roads and footways. Aside from new approaches to funding we need a more resilient network.

To quote from the report, here are some of the areas we address:

“Society demands yet more from our aged asset and ever more utilities are placed under our roads and above our street lights. We must understand how we can safeguard travel and communication in light of increased demand and expectation but with ever growing fragility…

“There is a worrying lack of awareness as a sector on how to respond to ever more frequent and intense weather. The Met Office has now updated advice that states a severe weather event at least every three years and that will be 30% more intense. Our assets and our communities are ill equipped for this…

“Political geography is not the right scale to respond to major and sustained weather impacts. We need new and fresh thinking to scale up expertise to provide better response within limited funding. Winter maintenance must no longer be about snow ploughs and salt stocks but instead about multi skilled professionals working 24/7 to support communities during severe storms, floods and fires.”…

The report addresses 12 priorities and arms LGTAG and its members with practical means upon which existing roads and bridges can be upgraded in support of our aim of providing a decent basic service level for users of local roads and footways. Equally the report urges a re-think on how we build better mobility that offers a lower environmental footprint and reduces sedentary lifestyles.

The full report ‘Transforming the Narrative’ can be downloaded here

John Lamb is President of the Local Government Technical Advisers Group. John will be discussing these issues in the Future Proofing Local Authority Roads panel session in the Jacobs Main Theatre at 09.30 on 8 November.

LGTAG member Trevor Collett will be sharing his work ‘Measuring and monitoring the condition of our highway network, SRN and local’ at 11.10am in the Tarmac Materials and Asset Management Dome, also on 8 November.

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John Lamb

John Lamb – President LGTAG

Delivering an end-to-end approach to asset renewal

Delivering an end-to-end approach to asset renewal

Funding cuts and a lack of investment in the local road network have resulted in the well documented highways network decline and maintenance backlog we face today.

With short-term election cycles obstacles to long-term planning, making the case to elected members for asset renewal programmes has never been more challenging.

Highways authorities are therefore being required to embrace new technology and find increasingly innovative ways to emphasise the importance of maintaining resilient networks to help form accurate and cost-effective asset management plans.

Adopting an end-to-end approach to asset management-led network renewal is often the key to making a successful case for a programme. Here are some of the underlying components:

Understanding social impacts

For local authorities to secure support from politicians for new investment, it is critical that they begin to consider the socio-economic impact and outcomes of their assets. This includes demonstrating value and providing better customer and end-user outcomes.

A few years ago, Tarmac worked with Blackpool Council to help it make the case for significant investment to deliver a major renewal programme. Using condition data mapped against a social impact matrix, elected members were able to see the state of key roads within their wards and the likely social and economic outcomes of a failing road near a school, hospital and the offices of a major employer, for example.

By showing how a well-maintained network was essential to supporting the council’s goal of delivering better social outcomes for its citizens, the case for funding was successfully made.

Driving data analysis

Data collection, digitally mapping assets and robust analyses can also be key to securing renewal programme investment.

Councils need to work with partners who can provide an accurate idea of target costs, as well as an understanding of materials that could be employed to ensure durable and cost-effective treatments for highways networks.

Having improved knowledge of an asset generates opportunities to make evidence-based decisions. This helps with day-to-day maintenance but also with long-term planning for the delivery of resilient and durable programmes.

Innovative technology

Automated paving is an innovative technology that can help inform client asset management plans. Sensors on paving and compaction equipment capture and record information about the quality of the installation during surfacing projects harvested from the construction process, from the type and temperature of materials used to the ambient weather conditions.

Once completed, the system matches GPS location data to generate an electronic construction and compaction record specific for each load.

The dataset is then mapped and accessible via software for analysis, providing a permanent record for the project and potentially significant opportunities for highways asset management.

An end-to-end approach

At Tarmac we believe that it is important to provide local authorities with an end-to-end approach to asset renewal.

Our programme, delivered in collaboration with highways data specialist, Gaist, and civil engineering consultancy specialising in asset management, Metis, includes providing comprehensive highways condition reports, data collection with advanced analysis and management support in developing a preventative maintenance model to combat network decline. It also provides guidance about the most appropriate forms of bespoke surfacing treatment.

Highways authorities are undoubtedly facing a perfect storm of network decline, reduced public funding, increased scrutiny and a need to embed greater resilience into our road networks. But hese factors mean that asset management-led renewal programmes are now not only critical but present great opportunities too.

Peter Hyde is highways services director at Tarmac

Tarmac is sponsoring the Materials and Maintenance Dome at Highways UK. The Materials and Maintenance Dome is one of the thirteen content streams running in parallel across the free-to-attend two-day event.

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Peter Hyde

Peter Hyde – Highways Services Director, Tarmac

Do you want to challenge the highways sector to change?

Do you want to challenge the highways sector to change?

 Talking Heads template

This is an incredible time to work in the UK highways sector. Across the country organisations are investing at record levels in innovative approaches to ensure the nation’s roads networks meet the demands of a growing travelling public.

But we know that we can do better. Just as the way that we build and maintain roads now is very different to the way we did things 10 years ago, so we know that there will be as much or more change in our future.

We want safer roads

We want more efficient delivery

We want delighted customers to value the network

We know that we can achieve this most effectively where the industry works together to identify the changes that it wants to make, that it needs to make.

So we see Highways UK as a brilliant opportunity to bring the industry together to discuss what our priorities should be.

Through our Change Infrastructure: Highwaysevent, we are looking to invite our customers, contractors, supply chain and stakeholders to join us at Highways UK.

We want to know what you see as the biggest challenges for the sector. But we want more than that. We also want you to tell us what you think the industry could do to respond to these challenges.

Over the course of a morning we will ask a diverse panel of presenters to put forward the challenges that they see for the sector, and the solutions that they think would work to resolve these problems.

We will then open it up to the industry to decide which challenge is most important, with a free vote to all Highways UK delegates.

Over the course of the next year we will then bring together the best people from across the industry to not just talk about the issue, but to put in the place the real change, creating a positive legacy for the sector that we will bring back to Highways UK in 2019.

Right now we are looking for people from across the industry who have a challenge that they would like to put to delegates at Highways UK. If you think that you have something, we hope that you will get in touch by emailing alasdairreisner@ceca.co.uk– and should your challenge be selected, CECA will provide support to help you prepare a short 5-10 minute presentation to deliver at the event.

So if you think you have an idea about how we can break new ground in digitising the industry; a suggestion of how we can secure the health, safety and wellbeing of our workforce; a proposal for new ways of building roads mode effectively; a way of recruiting a diverse new workforce; or any other idea that can revolutionise our sector, please do get in touch.

We look forward to seeing you in November, as we set off on a mission to change the industry.

Alasdair Reisner is chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association

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Alasdair Reisner

Alasdair Reisner – Chief Executive, Civil Engineering Contractors Association