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

Integrating technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure

Integrating technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure

Technology is changing the world we live in…. how many times have you heard that said recently? I don’t know about you, but I think by now we are all very aware that this is the case!

I’m interested in how people respond to technology changes: they tend either to embrace them or run for the hills. Let’s assume we are in the camp that wants to embrace this type of change. If this is the case, we are faced with a strange conundrum – it seems to be difficult to procure a technology solution and feel fully satisfied with the outcome.

Therein lies the problem though: more often than not we start with the solution itself without fully considering the outcome that we are trying to achieve. This is not too dissimilar to rushing out and buying the latest two seater sports car when the objective is to transport a family of five safely from A to B – perhaps some of us can relate to this.

I write about this light-heartedly, but it is a significant challenge for our industry. We can take the analogy further – in our situation we are often trying to drive the latest sports car down an ancient uneven cobbled road. In other words, we are trying to integrate the latest technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure and with a wide range of legacy systems. For these reasons I’m not convinced that there is such a thing as a ‘plug and play’ technology solution.

To realise the full potential of technology we need to do three things: begin by defining the outcome; consider carefully the possibilities and complexities of integrating new technology into existing infrastructure; work as one team across all disciplines.

At Costain, we find that beginning by working with our clients to define the outcome for their customers that we are trying to achieve provides an excellent focus for any technology project and is a huge help with key decisions. Secondly, we are passionate about a ‘bottom up’ approach to technology integration – in other words, we have a rich knowledge of how the end device (hardware) functions and we follow the integration from the end device back to the core systems.  Thirdly, we bring multiple skillsets together. Technology solutions don’t have to be defined by “technologists”. We bring all relevant disciplines from civil engineers, mechanical engineers, ecologists etc. and ‘technologists’ together to produce solutions that work.

Highways UK is always an excellent opportunity for industry to come together and discuss burning issues. This year Costain is delighted to be supporting the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub and very pleased to say that the competition is based entirely on client outcomes.

Several challenges have been set by various national and local authorities incuding Highways England, Birmingham City Council, Transport for the North, Transport Scotland, England’s Economic Heartland and The Air Quality Taskforce. The hub provides industry with an opportunity to propose technology solutions to these challenges, with winners chosen by each authority in a live judging session at the show. The challenges range from air quality to safety to optimising vehicle flow, so there is something for everyone to get their teeth into.

Click here for more information on the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub

James Bulleid is technology director for Costain’s infrastructure division

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James Bulleid

James Bulleid – Technology Director – Infrastructure, Costain

Improving road safety for both road workers and road users

Improving road safety for both road workers and road users

Highways England invests a great deal of effort and resource into ensuring the operatives that work for the contractors and service providers in its supply chain do so safely. Safety is the primary business imperative for all Highways England operations with various committees and working groups looking at all options to improve the safety of road workers and road users.

Driving for Better Business (DfBB) is an initiative that can do both. It is an existing campaign, 10 years old this year, but which has just been revitalised by Highways England with a massive commitment to fund a new three-year programme. With strong support right at the very top of Highways England, from the CEO and Chairman down, DfBB is a road safety campaign with a difference, one where road safety is the desired outcome, but not the central message.

DfBB was originally set up by the Department for Transport following a report from the Motorists Forum looking into the problems posed by business drivers – whether they be in company cars, vans or trucks, or driving their own cars. Their research showed that employers don’t really listen to road safety messages. While the vast majority don’t want their drivers to put themselves or others at risk, other tasks such as meeting sales targets and growing the business usually take priority.

The focus of the DfBB campaign is therefore to talk to business owners and managers about how managing drivers and vehicles is a central part of the drive for business excellence. Ambitious businesses can achieve many significant business benefits, from the obvious ones such as fewer crash repairs and lower fleet insurance, to less obvious benefits such as reduced staff absence, better fuel efficiency and emissions performance, and lower recruitment and training costs because staff feel more valued and are less likely to leave.

The Campaign uses a growing number of Business Champions to help promote the campaign and prove that the benefits are achievable and not just theoretical. Long standing champions include companies like Skanska and Balfour Beatty who play a large part in the highways sector, as well others like Tesco and Iron Mountain who are heavy road users. Their stories, and the results they’ve achieved, act as an inspiration to other employers.

The campaign is relevant to the highways sector for two key reasons:

  • By encouraging employers to pay greater attention to how they manage their vehicles and drivers, the aim is to improve the roadworthiness of company vehicles and the competence of business drivers who use all roads, not just the SRN. The Campaign will also be looking at how it can help address the specific problems associated with heavy network users and traditionally high-risk users such as taxi and private hire firms. All of which will minimise disruption, damage to infrastructure and road furniture, and contribute to reducing the risk to road workers.
  • By supporting DfBB, major contractors can lead by example and push to improve standards down through their own supply chains. This, in turn, means their own sub-contractors will pose less of a risk while travelling to, from or around sites and closures. They will also be more efficient and profitable, allowing them to provide you with a better service at a lower cost.

The Driving for Better Business session in this year’s inaugural Safer Highways UK conference, which takes place at Highways UK on 8 November, will provide a full 360 degree take on how this initiative affects the Highways sector and those who work in it. Highways England CEO Jim O’Sullivan will explain his commitment to the campaign and how it affects the SRN supply chain; I will be talking about how the Campaign works in practice; In Clancy Group we have a case study of good practice and striking business benefits from within the supply chain; and with the Van Excellence programme we have a fantastic tool to help validate standards across the whole sector.

I look forward to seeing you all at Safer Highways UK.

Simon Turner is Campaign Director at Driving for Better Business. Safer Highways UK is a new conference running at Highways UK on 8 November.

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Simon Turner

Simon Turner – Campaign Director, Driving for Better Business

Are you really listening?

Are you really listening?

“Are you listening, I mean, are you really listening”.

Being listened to and feeling that you are being heard is of huge importance to all of us. Why then should it be any different for our stakeholders when our organisations deliver a project?

When we consider the deluge of information hitting fixed and mobile screens on a daily basis when do stakeholders get the chance to be heard? People want to know if anyone or you in particular, are actually listening. Only then can you harness of the power of engagement to make a positive difference to the development of stakeholder relationships.

Highways England aims to create a dependable, durable and safe network, one which is free-flowing, serviceable, accessible and integrated. This network will support economic growth and result in sustainable benefits for the environment. Anyone planning, designing or building a highway would find this difficult to argue with. Integral to achieving these aims are communities, interest groups and organisations that have an interest in what we are delivering. Therefore engagement and listening to our stakeholders should also be integral to what we do.

Increasingly there is both a statutory obligation and an expectation that projects will carry out engagement and, critically, be able to demonstrate that engagement has been carried out thoroughly and effectively.  Successful engagement leads to:

·       Greater stakeholder buy-in: improving trust and productive interactions in the project, our organisations and the highways industry.

·       Enhanced design and delivery: delivering a project which takes into account stakeholder needs, interests and requirements; reducing the need for change further down the line.

·       Smoother approvals: incorporating stakeholder input can result in fewer objections, less opposition and more efficient approvals, saving time and money.

·       Managing issues: by engaging early and well, your project can identify and address issues before they arise.

·       Supporting change: by guiding stakeholders through change, listening to their concerns and helping them to understand the reasons and outcomes that you are aiming to achieve.

·       Demonstrating corporate responsibility: demonstrating that your organisation cares for and understands the impact of your projects, offering  the opportunity to deliver a positive legacy to areas and communities.

·       Reputation: engaging effectively can provide an excellent way to enhance, manage and protect your organisation’s reputation.

Our stakeholders are an asset. They are affected by the work that we do and, long after the project is over will live with the outcomes of what we deliver. They are a primary source of knowledge and information, their ‘lived experience’ can provide us with a more thorough understanding of the context for our projects as well as potentially giving greater life to the findings from our studies and surveys. They can give us perspectives and information on our projects that we cannot find elsewhere. By listening we can deliver stronger outcomes that work both for us and for our stakeholders.

When engaging think about:

·       Listening without interruption.

·       Silence as a tool to prove that you are paying attention.

·       Acknowledgement by repeating back what you have heard.

Listening is free and offers the power to turn a good project into a great one. At Jacobs we have a dedicated engagement team, giving our clients the benefit of excellence in engagement. Join us at the CIHT Briefing ‘Strategic collaboration in transport’ to hear more about how transport schemes and projects can be delivered more effectively through the use of engagement and successful partnership working.

Lisa Levy is speaking in the CIHT’s collaboration session taking place within Highways UK on 16 November

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Lisa Levy

Lisa Levy – Director of Operations – Stakeholder Engagement, Jacobs

‘Autopilot’ Tesla fatality is a reminder to pace and structure autonomous car development

‘Autopilot’ Tesla fatality is a reminder to pace and structure autonomous car development

In late May of this year, Tesla announced that some 70,000 of its cars utilising its “Autopilot” assisted driving feature had driven 100 million miles on the road. This milestone was notable not only because it by far exceeded any competitors’ record but also because, as some commentators noted, on average, a fatality occurs on US roads every 100 million miles driven.

What has only just been reported however is that sadly the first fatality involving a Tesla in Autopilot had already occurred on 7 May in Florida when a Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode collided with a tractor-trailer, killing the Tesla driver. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation has now been opened.

Whilst the public response to this incident will undoubtedly be of interest to the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) sector, it should be borne in mind that the cause (and the resilience of future mitigation) is currently unclear but the focus of any investigation is likely to be as much on Tesla’s approach to testing driver assistance features and software use as to the concept of CAV regulation.

Commentators and industry experts have regularly noted that Tesla’s startlingly successful vehicle programme (guided by its visionary founder, Elon Musk), has threatened to outstrip the pace of regulation in the US. Autopilot-enabled Tesla cars have been operating on an everyday basis on public roads since 2014 without significant regulatory impact.

In October 2015, an ‘over-the-air’ downloaded software patch gave the Autopilot feature to tens of thousands more existing owners of hardware-enabled Teslas in a way which appeared largely to have bypassed the NHTSA. Despite the fact that the Autopilot feature is expressly a test feature in “beta” and that, being a driver assistance tool, Tesla advises that drivers should at all times be alert and keep their hands on the wheel, there are numerous YouTube videos of drivers openly operating Teslas in Autopilot with little or no manual control and often dangerously and illegally.

This loose regulatory framework has facilitated a step change in the take up of autonomous features in vehicles but there will be some who say that the take up of driver assistance autonomous software features proceeded with too much haste and too little caution.

Disruptive innovation should after all only be ‘disruptive’ up to a point. It is probable that the regulatory position on existing vehicles with driver assistance features such as Autopilot and their testing will be reviewed with a view to tightening them up to ensure public safety.

Beyond mere driver assistance tools like Autopilot and looking ahead to true semi-autonomous or autonomous vehicles (where driver control is fully handed over to the vehicle system by design), authorities and regulators are also likely to be more proactive in the need to legislate and provide for common frameworks, standards and approaches to ensure public safety both in terms of hardware (eg sensors) and software (eg cyber-security).

In the UK, the Government’s policy paper “The Pathway to Driverless Cars” has provided a clear structured framework and approach towards the testing and eventual introduction of autonomous vehicles since February 2015. Proactive policy development is being supported by a number of publicly-funded pilot projects in the UK including in Greater Bristol, Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Coventry. The ultimate goal is to introduce autonomous vehicles against the backdrop of robust legal frameworks, insurance and safety standards already put in place.

Burges Salmon is an adviser to the VENTURER and FLOURISH driverless vehicle projects funded by Innovate UK. VENTURER and FLOURISH partners include Axa UK plc, Atkins, Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council.

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Brian Wong

Brian Wong – Legal Director, Burges Salmon