Road-user charging – the answer to everything or nothing? – Ben Plowden and Rich Sallnow, PA Consulting

Road-user charging – the answer to everything or nothing? – Ben Plowden and Rich Sallnow, PA Consulting

The funding and decarbonisation of road transport in the UK continues to be a hot topic. The Treasury anticipates a £35 billion hole in the budget owing to lower fuel duty and vehicle excise duty (VED) as the fleet electrifies. But vehicle electrification alone will not be sufficient to hit net-zero targets. The number of miles driven needs to fall too, as some policymakers in the devolved administrations have recognised.

Is introducing road-user charging the answer?

A number of authoritative voices – including the House of Commons Transport Select Committee and the Climate Change Committee – have argued that a national road-user charging scheme is the answer to these challenges. And in principle, it could be. But the political and technical complexity of introducing a scheme that simultaneously manages congestion, raises revenues, incentivises low- and no-emission vehicles – and does all equitably as household budgets are under unprecedented pressure – is too big a mountain to climb. Twinned with the existing web of disconnected schemes including congestion zones, tolls, and clean air zones, alongside unique policy priorities in different regions of the UK, the implementation challenge becomes truly daunting.

Despite these challenges, the £35 billion funding shortfall is likely to lead the Treasury to look at a ‘revenue collection’ scheme in the first instance. But how would we ensure any revenue collection scheme introduced in the near future facilitates broader policy ambitions in the long term and allows enhancements to tackle regional policy goals?

Understanding the potential road-user charging evolution is key

Understanding now how road-user charging may need to evolve will enable transport policymakers to develop a solution that enables a wider range of policy positions later on.

Here are three potential phases of maturity that road-user charging could go through – and which an early-stage solution will eventually need to accommodate.

Phase 1: Introducing a distance-based charge

The first phase could see the introduction of a distance-based charge, with an annual odometer inspection to evidence a pence-per-mile cost of motoring as the simplest and potentially cheapest way of implementation. This could apply to electric vehicles (EVs) in the first instance, with petrol and diesel vehicles still paying fuel duty and VED, establishing the principle that EVs also need to cover their wider ‘external’ costs. It could also help offset the risk of congestion induced by much lower mileage costs of EVs relative to fossil-fuelled vehicles. This could operate alongside existing congestion and emission charging schemes, and, through its introduction, help offset loss of revenues from electrification.

Whilst termed ‘simple’, the design of the scheme still poses significant complexity. How will the government continue to incentivise the shift to clean vehicles whilst ensuring all road users contribute to the ongoing costs of the road network? How will driving on private land, driving abroad and foreign vehicles in the UK be managed? What will be the penalties for fraudulent behaviour and how will it be monitored? Alongside this, government will also need to decide how the scheme will operate, who will be responsible for collecting funds, how funds should be invested, the commercial terms for an odometer inspection, and the legislative instruments needed to enforce them.

Phase 2: Adding emissions-based charging to the mix

The next stage of maturity could see the introduction of a distance and emissions-based per-mile charge, with a discounted rate for low and no-emission vehicles. An annual odometer inspection would continue to be available. Or, as an alternative, drivers could opt for an onboard unit and/or mobile phone apps to enable GPS tracking and allow for a daily, weekly or monthly charge. Digital channels would offer drivers a convenient way to pay, together with seamless and integrated payment of other clean air and congestion zone charges.

This digitally enabled solution would create additional challenges. Can GPS tracking be relied on through major cities such as London? How could enforcement work should users not comply with the rules? What consideration needs to be given to GDPR factors? And should the digital channels that enable this more sophisticated solution be owned and operated by the government or outsourced?

Phase 3: Introducing a single road-use account for each motorist

A single road-use account for each motorist would support distance, emissions and congestion-based charges. With this solution enabled by an app, phone or onboard unit, motorists would receive an automated charge to their road-user account and a regular digital update on their charges. There would be no need to interact frequently with the charging system, but instead notifications set at the user’s discretion (be it per trip or per month amounts). Linked to navigation and/or transport platforms, a planned journey can be costed and considered alongside alternatives such as bus and rail.

Many of the challenges tackled in previous phases will resolve those that exist with phase three. However, a mature solution like this will require road users to trust the charges made to their account. This, in turn, will demand a cultural and behavioural shift.

Phased implementation points the way forward

As we face an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, any road user charging scheme requires careful consideration. Policy makers need a forensic understanding of the financial impact on households – based on different types of motorists, road users and the wider economy. The challenge we face is that the fiscal and environmental issues facing road transport are not going away.

Road-user charging holds real promise for policy makers looking to drive decarbonisation of the fleet and reduce miles travelled. The delivery challenge is undeniably substantial but, with a phased approach, is achievable. Careful design of the implementation of each phase – with thinking that considers the long-term vision before creating a reactive solution to today’s burning platform – will result in road-user charging solutions that are more convenient and more appealing for motorists. This, in turn, will help change the choices that motorists make about what type of car to drive and how much and when to drive.



Doing things differently with technology and innovation – Keith Smith, Chevron Group

Doing things differently with technology and innovation – Keith Smith, Chevron Group

Keith Smith, Chief Engineer for the Chevron Group explains how innovative thinking, digital technology and industry collaboration has resulted in a new way of managing Mobile Carriageway Closures.

We have to change the way we think about roadworks if we want to change the way we do roadworks. If we still think of roadworks in the same way we did it in the 1990’s we will always struggle with safety, incursions and maintaining traffic flow on our network in the 21st century.

Traffic management is a strange beast in some ways. There are times when it feels like things never change or that change is slow and tortuous but then we look back and see how far we have come in the past 10 or 20 years, we realise that change does happen and when it does, it makes a real difference.

We have seen tremendous improvements in road user safety, road users are having better experiences at roadworks thanks to the implementation of correct engineering, we are supporting people with additional mobility needs, we are reducing our carbon footprint and we are delivering operational efficiencies and improvements.

These are all really important improvements but the challenge, of course, is to keep pushing, collaborating and striving for more.

The introduction of our Enhanced Mobile Carriageway Closure technique which has been accepted by National Highways is a great example of what can be achieved.

Essentially, the EMCC technique allows traffic management contractors to deploy an agile vehicle displaying an authorised sign to create a traffic-free environment for a short period of time. The van is equipped with an incursion warning system to alert workers of errant vehicles entering the work zone. The EMCC can be deployed during operations including the installation, maintenance, switching, or removal of traffic management systems. This includes supporting works operations that requires short periods of traffic-free time. Ultimately, it provides an alternative to the use of rolling roadblocks when delivering planned roadworks projects.

And it came about because we went back to basics and considered the engineering and changed our thinking on how and why we do things. We simply couldn’t go on making TTM operations more complex by considering elements of the process in isolation. We had all the elements we needed to enable us to do this. We just needed to rethink about how we could pull them together to deliver roadworks more efficiently with improved safety and customer experience.

The use of an MCC to create a traffic free environment has been available to providers since the publication of Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 8 in 2006, but it required scarce and expensive resources which made the technique impractical and therefore it was never adopted.

We collaborated with HRS, who really are leading the way in delivering digital change to the industry and looked at their IIPAWS® (Intellicone® Incursion Prevention & Warning System). We were able to consider the MCC technique as well as the Convoy Control Vehicle technique which was approved in 2014, and enhance it with IIPAWS®.

In 2019, we began a series of self-funded, EMCC trials in conjunction with Costain. Our focus was to create short, traffic-free environments for work sites which were impacted by high traffic volumes, specific site features or works activities while improving safety standards, reducing disruption to customers and simultaneously minimising risks to road workers and road users with increased working windows to improve delivery.

The beauty of the EMCC is that it benefits everyone – contractors, TM providers and road users. It even benefits the environment.

For the TM provider, there is no lost time organising and waiting for a rolling roadblock which frees up those resources. EMCC gives direct control to the TM provider and contractor to start a rolling roadblock as soon as conditions allow or the requirement occurs. The trials have also shown that the EMCC can be safely activated at a higher traffic count which allows works to commence at a known time. Road workers are protected by the IIPAWS® incursion warning system.

For the contractor, this new technique gives them more control over their works schedule because we can provide a known and certain start time and give them a longer working window which will obviously take pressure of their timeframes and their workers and reduce the risks to those operations. It can also allow some works to move from night works to daytime works which has obvious benefits. To give you an example, we ran an EMCC for a client who needed to carry out crane works adjacent to an A road. These works were scheduled to be done at night but by deploying an EMCC, the client was able to reschedule them to daytime works and avoid closing the road over several nights, reducing cost and improving worker safety, in addition to eliminating environmental impact of diversions.

For the road user, we can eliminate the need for diversions which often take them onto unfamiliar side roads when they are possibly tired or have had a long day. This reduces stress levels and minimises the chance of getting lost or frustrated with the works. With the EMCC, drivers stay on the carriageway, follow the EMCC vehicle at a slower and controlled speed for a short period of time and then pick up their speed when the EMCC has ended, and the control vehicle has moved off the carriageway. Our trials established that with the EMCC system, the delay to road users is between 3 – 5 minutes which is significantly less than a diversion onto trunk route.

If we go back to our client on the A road, using this technique, they avoided having to divert over 10,000 road users through local roads during their crane operations. And of course, every eliminated diversion reduces miles travelled which will ultimately reduce carbon emissions on every shift, benefitting the environment.

The new EMCC trial project is an excellent example of how we delivered change by working collaboratively in an honest, open and enjoyably creative manner and underpinning everything with traffic engineering theory. Chevron TM worked with Costain to conceive and develop the concept and engaged with National Highways technical leads and specialists to refine and develop the test programme, reviewing, modifying and retesting this new way of working to improve safety, delivery and customer service for contractors, TM providers, road users and our planet. It also better utilises the finite resources available in responder organisations, providing another route to ensuring that everyone gets home safe and well.

About Keith Smith 

Keith Smith is a professional engineer with a general highways engineering and construction background and is a leading practitioner and authority in temporary traffic management engineering and roadwork design, lecturing, researching and proactively supporting the Chevron Group and other industry organisations to implement improvements in their operational functions. Known for his collaborative and open and honest conversations, he has been at the forefront of developing learning and new techniques in the industry for nearly 30 years.


Covid, the economy, and the Roads Policy Trilemma – Michael Whelan, M6Toll

Covid, the economy, and the Roads Policy Trilemma – Michael Whelan, M6Toll

Michael Whelan, General Manager at M6Toll looks at RUC trials in California, Utah and Washington state, and explains how lessons learnt could be applied in the UK 

The arrival of the Covid19 pandemic in the UK changed everything overnight, not least on our roads. The near-total disappearance of road traffic during multiple lockdowns led many globally – like the Brookings Institute in the US – to ask how the carbon and congestion benefits of reduced road traffic could be preserved as lockdowns ended.

The impact had certainly been significant. In March 2020 the first of three national lockdowns came into force and within just 6 days, three quarters of all motor vehicle journeys had vanished from the UK’s road network.

But this dramatic shift hasn’t had the enduring legacy that many anticipated – and the emissions and congestion challenges have come roaring back. As society and the economy returns to other critical more ‘traditional’ challenges – such as inflation and the cost of living – traffic levels also returned to a pre-Covid state. In the first week of July 2022, over two years since the first lockdown began, car usage on Britain’s roads stood between 92% and 105% of pre-Covid levels[1]. Even by March 2022, car usage on motorways in the West Midlands in particular had returned to 97% of pre-Covid levels

However, whilst overall traffic levels have returned to pre-Covid numbers, traffic patterns have changed – at least temporarily. At the M6toll we have observed this shift in two ways:

Most apparently, weekday traffic on the M6toll is now 14% below 2019 levels. It’s probable this is due to commuter patterns adjusting to the widespread emergence of hybrid working. Speaking to our customers about their changing work and leisure patterns has enabled us to create flexible new products to respond to the shift in consumer behaviours.

Conversely, weekend traffic on the M6toll is now almost 5% above 2019 levels. A combination of factors – including a rise in UK holidays – could be behind this, but longer-term it remains to be seen whether this change endures or returns to pre-Covid levels as global travel returns.

But even with these changes to driver behaviour, overall traffic levels over the course of the week are back now at similar levels to pre-pandemic, meaning the roads policy challenges facing the country have not gone away. These challenges are three-fold – how to decarbonise road traffic, how to continue to support economic growth through improved connectivity, and how to protect the very significant levels of Exchequer funding raised through VAT and fuel duty. It is this road policy trilemma that has resulted in the increasing focus on Road User Pricing (RUP) as the solution.

In fact, far from ‘not going away’, these three road policy challenges have actually intensified in recent months. As the economic turbulence of inflation continues to bite – spread and encouraged by the cost of petrol, diesel and energy prices – this trilemma has become more urgent. Electric Vehicles sales are soaring as consumers look for cheaper modes of travel and the Exchequer is again under pressure to examine its fuel duty and VAT receipts. In other words, it’s not just Covid that has underscored the virtues of RUP but also the environment of today’s post-Pandemic and inflationary  economy.

Indeed, with organisations as diverse as bus companies, councils and the AA supporting road user charging, its stock is certainly rising. Yet one major roadblock stands in the way – public acceptability. As some reporting has already made clear, any Government introducing road user charging would face stiff opposition from some quarters, making its introduction difficult without public acceptability.

At M6toll, the UK’s only tolled road, operating at no cost to the tax payer, we have a unique insight into what the Government can do to make road user charging acceptable to the public. From our experience, and research we conducted with Stantec, we’ve identified three ways to make road user charging more palatable to the public:

Let them try it out first

The Washington State of Transportation Commission (WSTC) trialled road user charging in 2018 and found that the biggest influence on increased public acceptability was having participated in or been familiar with the trial. After a year of participating in the pilot programme, studies showed that motorists became more favourable towards RUC, with 68% of the respondents preferring RUC over or equally to the gas tax – a marked increase.

This suggests that the Government would be wise to phase any scheme in over time, allowing the public to gradually get used to road user charging in increments, rather than in one big bang. Whilst this might introduce other policy challenges – delaying the revenue take for example – it may be more likely to build public acceptability.

Offer choice

The Utah Department of Transport launched a voluntary RUC pilot programme for electric and hybrid vehicles, giving owners the choice of either paying a flat fee or paying by the mile. This element of choice appears to have reduced opposition by giving drivers some power in how they pay, at least at the beginning of the scheme.

In the UK, this could be in the options to pay offered – as in Utah – or it could be in ensuring that there are alternative non-chargeable routes available for those wishing to use them.

Focus on fairness

The California Transportation Committee launched a pilot programme in 2016 that found that rural drivers, lower-income drivers and drivers of certain ethnicities were the most difficult targets to convert from volunteer to participants, whilst in Colorado, 54% of the participants perceived road user charging would unfairly penalise rural drivers who often need to travel longer distances.

In the UK, AA President Edmund King has developed proposals that would see rural residents given a larger allocation of ‘free miles’ to use before road user charges applied and the Government would do well to consider this and other fairness elements seriously.

These findings point to the Government resisting calls for a simple, one-size-fits-all approach that, whilst easy to understand, might actually undermine road user pricing. This would be a major strategic error. The government’s latest OBR report identifies the “loss of existing motoring taxes in a decarbonising economy” as a critical challenge to the UK’s national debt and fiscal outlook. Particularly at a time of inflation, increased spending and post-Pandemic changes to domestic travel, this is not something we can afford to get wrong.

With the roads policy trilemma not going away any time soon, it’s worth taking the time to get this right.

[1] Covid19 Transport Use Statistics, Official Statistics, DFT, UK Govt (2022)

How to make the best choices for sustainable transport – Alex Walton, Arcadis

How to make the best choices for sustainable transport – Alex Walton, Arcadis

Alex Walton, Director and Product Owner at Arcadis, explains how we can optimise our transport strategies and make data driven decisions. 

Transport planners love optimization.  We are great at tinkering with signal timings and converging strategic models.  But we have also been limited in ambition, the result of this often being more investment in models and ultimately more roads.  Perhaps we need to refocus our analytics towards transport strategies instead, balancing the objectives of sustainable development and making hard decisions easier.

The academics have been telling us optimization should be part of our decision-making toolkit for years (  Professor Susan Owens at Cambridge lectures about the tough trade-offs transport and environment policy-makers must make between the pillars of sustainable development.  So how do we achieve net-zero whilst simultaneously levelling up?

Empowering transport planners

Many of us joined the transportation planning profession with the idea of making a difference.  After the declaration of climate emergencies by many Transport Authorities, there’s been an amazing upswell in ambition and impact from local and regional authority officers across the country.

But one officer can’t move an industry by themselves.  They need support – from the bottom-up, from the top-down, from partnerships, from people, from tools – a means to align their stakeholders towards urgent new goals.

Making data driven decisions

At Arcadis we’re passionate about supporting our clients through this journey.  Here are our top tips for capital investment planning:

  • Collaborate intensively with stakeholders to agree the vision, objectives and how to measure success
  • Create a long-list of potential interventions, with extensive inputs from all parties, and assess the relative impacts of each intervention against your success measures
  • Adopt a data driven approach to prioritizing projects
  • Show the impacts in KPIs across the portfolio and extensively test different scenarios, together with stakeholders, to move towards compromise

We have developed a solution for our clients to do just this.  And it’s a proven tool. We’ve been using this with regulated water clients who had to prepare five-year capital investment plans. Their challenge was how to select the best combination of projects from a very long list, in order to maximize outcomes (e.g. sustainability, levelling up, customer satisfaction, OpEx etc.) within a set of constraints (e.g. budget).  A classic optimization problem.

The successes were outstanding, for example helping Severn Trent Water secure >£200m in financial benefit, mainly from increased funding, during a 15-year partnership.

So, if it works so well with water clients, why not transportation planning?

Introducing the Transport Strategy Optimizer

We have repurposed our proven investment optimization tools into the new Transport Strategy Optimizer, a cloud-based decision-support software for our clients as they develop bold transport strategies.

How does it work?  The user simply uploads a long-list of projects, each with data on costs and other KPIs as per the framework agreed with stakeholders.  The tool then applies research-based optimization to answer the question:  What is the optimal Capital Investment Plan within our constraints and with our goals in mind? 

Budget is an example of a constraint.  Emissions reduction or levelling up deprived areas are examples of goals.  The user can specify any combination of constraints and goals from their KPI framework.  This allows for creation of new scenarios anytime, anywhere; and importantly together with stakeholders.

Does this mean removing the human touch from decision making?  Absolutely not, no tool can ever replace the importance of local knowledge.  It is a decision-support tool for officers, allowing them to run large numbers of scenarios, evaluate trade-offs, find the optimum balance between outcomes, and achieve greater stakeholder alignment by doing this interactively.  In other words, facilitating collaboration and encouraging compromise whilst still optimizing outcomes.

We are now testing the software with key regional and local clients, with a plan to then release more widely in the UK and beyond.

This is one of the many ways Arcadis is supporting the impetus towards net-zero in Transportation Planning.  What an exciting time to be a Transport Planner.

Contact person –


Making connections happen – Duncan Reed and Stuart Campbell, Trimble

Making connections happen – Duncan Reed and Stuart Campbell, Trimble

Trimble’s Duncan Reed, Business Development Manager, and Stuart Campbell, Head of Sales and Business Development, explores the value of connected technology for civil infrastructure, ahead of Highways UK 2022

Our nation’s civil infrastructure is a critical part of the UK, with our roads and highways used by millions of people every day, helping us to stay connected. When it comes to their design, construction and maintenance, this theme of connectivity rises again, with the benefits of connected and synchronised construction being extensive and far-reaching.

At Trimble, we always advocate for a digitised construction workflow when it comes to civil infrastructure, and we’re proud to have a long record of supporting the effective design and efficient delivery of highways projects in the UK with our portfolio of solutions.

While there has been an evident rise in the uptake of design software, adding hardware into the workflow can be an additional piece of the jigsaw. Having software and hardware that talk to one another, with data that is shared, and teams that communicate effectively is critical – not just for the Concept & Design phase but also Site Construction and even beyond that, feeding into the Operation & Maintenance stage.

Here at Trimble, we welcome National Highway’s Digital, Data and Technology Strategy, as we are pleased to support the Connected and Autonomous Plant (CAP) programme too. In particular, we see CAP as a platform for the industry to look at connectivity throughout the project lifecycle.

From this comes the power to check, review and gain insights from the data that has been created during the design, construction and operation of the Strategic Roads network and beyond. As an industry, we already create and collect huge amounts of data. It is providing the technology that can then take this data, combine, filter and display it. By having this useful information, we can take the industry forward to the point of real time insights. Whether this is validating the quality of the new asset as it is being constructed, through to predicting when existing assets will fall below standard, to giving road users real-time information on the state of the network – good data underpins all of these processes.

Location, Information and Collaboration

It may seem obvious but one of the most important factors in the design and construction of roads is the ‘where’. Different outputs require different levels of accuracy but knowing and delivering these is crucial for the successful delivery of a project. Here at Trimble location, information and collaboration are the three cornerstones of our business. Customers use our technology to ensure that survey information is collected accurately and shared in the right format, enabling the creation of designs that can be set out in the field correctly too.

Automation and Machine Control

Trimble are proud of the depth and breadth of technology we can offer – our mission is to ‘transform the way the world works’. One such example of this is our established work in the field of autonomy, where we have leveraged our skills, knowledge and expertise in the agriculture and mining sectors to now inform the development of autonomous solutions in the construction and transportation spaces too.

Machine control, the first step towards full autonomy, can create better accuracy, improved quality and, in turn, offers carbon savings too. Our customers are already reporting 25% improvements from our assisted steering technology for compaction equipment

Combining this technology with the ability to view, both in real time and remotely, the performance of plant and equipment on site allows project teams to massively improve the management of their operations.

Start with the end in mind

It’s a well-worn phrase to say ‘start with the end in mind’ but when it comes to working digitally this really is the case. To ensure a constructible design is achieved in the field, it needs to be defined, designed and detailed accurately from the start. The design shouldn’t just deliver the required linework and levels but should be the result of a rigorous and collaborative process, considering the required outcomes, carbon, environmental issues, costs and buildability.

The right digital solutions can support these design processes and help to deliver roads for the future.

To find out more about Trimble solutions for civil engineering, please visit:

Getting the strategic road network ready for autonomous vehicles calls for collaboration – Joanna White, National Highways

Getting the strategic road network ready for autonomous vehicles calls for collaboration – Joanna White, National Highways

Joanna White, Roads Development Director at National Highways, outlines the importance of collaboration and information sharing to successfully implement connected services. 

Vehicles are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, designed to keep us safer and make our journeys more enjoyable. Over the next decade, technology will transform the way we travel and we may even start to see driverless cars on our network. It’s vital that the road network is ready for these changes.

Following the launch of National Highways’ Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) trials safety guidance, National Highways is working to ensure safety is at the forefront of all CAV trials on England’s motorways and A-roads.

It’s imperative that any trials that happen on our network put the safety of drivers and other road users first and foremost. While our role is not to mandate how those running CAV trials manage safety, we would encourage them to apply the framework of the safety risk management standard. We launched our new CAV safety trials guidance to assist in this.

Trials have already taken place

Between 2015 and 2020 we ran pioneering trials of connected and autonomous vehicles, working with industry, other transport authorities, local authorities and wider government.

These trials included the UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment (UKCITE) project with University of Warwick; A2/M2 connected corridor that created a “wi-fi road” to connect vehicles and infrastructure wirelessly with Arup; HelmUK, which involved freight platooning; and HumanDrive, which involved a Nissan-led 368km autonomous drive.

For the UKCITE and A2/M2 trials, participants drove along sections of the network with overhead signs and as they did so, they could see the same information on the in-vehicle panel.

The trials tested the sort of information we can provide – like speed limits, journey time information and things like road works ahead – and how things like the speed travelled affects the information. Timing is a critical element, so ensuring that people are getting information that is current and relevant.

We also needed to test whether any extra communication technology is needed, or whether the mobile phone network would suffice. The trial concluded that we could indeed use the mobile network, and that information could be provided in a timely way. This has now led to a piece of work where taking the learning from these relatively small scale pilots, and looking at how we scale this approach across the whole of the network. And we’re looking at that from right across the spectrum of those who drive on the network – from lorry drivers, those who drive for business or socially.

For the HelmUK freight platooning trial we were looking at how information could be shared between a convoy of lorries. We wanted to understand what happened if you put a certain number of lorries close together. What benefits and efficiencies could be achieved? For example, could fuel savings be made, resulting in a real benefit from a logistics operational point of view?

The trial also looked at how the platooning vehicles interacted with other vehicles on the network and how that could happen in a safe manner. Tying back to the point about the safety case framework and applying a safety risk management approach. These trials have recently been completed so we’ll be able to announce outcomes and next steps soon.

Finally, the Nisson HumanDrive trial was about enabling a trial of an autonomous vehicle driving on real roads in a real-world environment. Looking at how we could support Nissan and the other members of the consortia to do that in a safe manner, so that they’re considering all the different elements of our road system.

The trial looked at aspects like how a vehicle travels through roadworks, how well its read white lines and other roadside “furniture” and how the vehicle knows where it needs to be on the network. This trial involved gathering data and then building a route that can be taken safely, as well as identifying risks.

These trials are all helping us to get ready for a future which includes autonomous vehicles, which is probably a couple of decades away but there are already some autonomous systems in use.

Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are becoming more common. These features can assist drivers in driving and parking functions and use automated technology, such as cameras and sensors, to detect surroundings or obstacles, but are not classed as autonomous as the driver is still needed to operate the vehicle.

One of the newest features in vehicles is the automated lane keeping system, which has been mandated on motorways to allow for speeds up to 60km/h. We’re working with the government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles to ensure that safety is thoroughly considered.

The importance of collaborating with stakeholders

Collaborating with stakeholders from across the industry will be the key to success in ensuring standards are met. We need to stay in constant dialogue with vehicle manufacturers, those developing the technology and law makers because there are so many interdependencies. There’s a clear interaction between the vehicle and the road, and that requires us to look at how we develop our standards and look at our future road design and our information systems.

It’s the chicken or the egg situation, because you’ve got the manufacturers of vehicles or other technology developing things. And do we react to what they’re developing and then change our infrastructure and standards, or do we work with them together? Because even developing that, we develop our infrastructure at the same time or do we say this is our standard and this is what you need to develop in order to go on a work on our motorways.

It’s probably a blend of all these factors. Depending on the service, the circumstances and where it is, it can be quite relatively easy to change something. It might not be for us to change, it might be for the manufacturer or the service provider to change it. But we need to have those conversations and those relationships in place, otherwise the risk is that we invest money changing something and it’s completely unnecessary and vice versa.

We’re already focusing on the information provision side of things and our next task is looking at how that ends up in the vehicle.

We might push the data, for example on planned roadworks, out to a third party provider who then shares it. But then how do you make sure that it is used responsibly? It takes time to develop, because of the nature of what you’re trying to do.

Some of the location data just isn’t accurate for us to be confident that it would reach the vehicles with that information. The quality of the geospatial data is critical. We’ll need to develop standards and policies in this area.

With these standards and policies in place, customers will be able to get the information that they need quickly and efficiently, and it’ll be tailored to them specifically. They won’t just be getting a blanket set of information that they’ve got to sift through and find the bits that apply to them. Ultimately this should enhance the quality of their journey and their whole experience.

People should know a journey will take a certain amount of time, and should be told in a timely fashion about any delays or diversions that they would need to take and they took the diversion and it was correct.

Gaining trust will be critical; people need to know that the information they see coming into their vehicle saying, for example ‘obstruction ahead, move over’ is accurate.

Once we’ve gained that trust, we’ll be able to manage people’s expectations better, and of course there are huge safety benefits because we’ll be able to target people much more quickly, helping them to proactively manage situations.

The journey to achieving connected services

Number one to achieving success is collaboration. We are just one part of an end to end process to make this information available and useful. We’ll need to collaborate with external parties but also with those within our business too.

And then of course there is data quality; making sure any information we provide meets legislation and making sure it all joins up clearly. We might push out that information, but how it’s provided back into the vehicle needs to comply with the legislation and not be distracting.

Our relationship with the government is key here as well, so that we’re making sure that we’re in step with their plans and that we can provide that advice to them. How it might impact our operation of the network and for the future, a key question will be about our role as a network operator and what does that really mean and what does that look like?

Driver education and communication is going to be fundamental. We will need people to learn more about the features available in their vehicles, absorb the information provided and take the correct action.

The future road network is very exciting and it’s thrilling to be part of the preparations of what’s to come.

Joanna White, Roads development director with National Highways will join the panel discussion on ‘The roadmap to (CAM) connected and automated mobility take up’ on Day 1 – 2 November at 11.50am in the Technology and Innovation theatre.




The future of mobility is safer (and how we get there) – Jillian Kowalchuk, Safe and the City

The future of mobility is safer (and how we get there) – Jillian Kowalchuk, Safe and the City

Jillian Kowalchuk, Founder of Safe and the City explains how software and AI can help people feel safer when using the transport network 

Most people think of Safe & the City as just an app, but that isn’t the full picture. There’s more  behind our technologies, what drives our team and mission to change the world for the better. When you think of a better future, be it one year, 5-years or-10 years from now, does it feel safer?  Of course, it does. It must be, otherwise, we wouldn’t say it’s an improvement from today. Safety  is implied, a given. But this way of thinking is problematic. We can only create that type of future if  we actively understand, learn and work towards that vision.

Safe & the City is led by our mission and vision for a better and safer future. We started with Safe  & the City’s navigation app that reflects the areas of safety during travel that are mainly  preventative and have been missed. Whether it is sexual harassment, misogyny or LGBTQ+ hate  crimes, these gaps in knowledge we don’t collect insights on, measure and improve, won’t ever  change.

“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

Our freedom of movement is predicated on our beliefs to feel and be safe in this country. For  example, when we leave home to catch our bus to the tube station to work, we expect it will be  safe. We know there has been a lot of thought, development, and learnings to reflect the current  safety standards, such as how we created the rules of the road, vehicle manufacturing  requirements, the bus drivers’ training, and installed CCTV to reduce crimes, to name a few. When  departing from a tube station, we can appreciate the array of public safety considerations to move  millions of people – the engineering of a train, the wider network operations, staff training and  even a dedicated transport police force (BTP). While each of these physical components is  different, all aspects need to work together in unison to get people safely to where they need to  be.

But what about the software that helps us move through each of these transport systems, even  when on our own two feet? That is a completely different story. Software technologies and apps  move more people than any-one transport system. And at large have zero consideration of  people’s safety, no regulations to set a higher bar and little market incentive to change. However, individuals are waking up that technologies need to do more. Consider how much we  relied on technology to support us during the COVID-19 pandemic. Software technologies that  helped keep our distance, know congestion periods on transport and anonymously get notified if  we came into contact with an infected person. We have limitless opportunities if we can leverage  technology to innovate around problems, set higher expectations of user privacy, and physical  and psychological safety and strive toward making the overall experience positive. Not to exploit  people, but to lift, better understand and learn how mobility products can make every journey  better for everyone.

Safe & the City’s i3 Intelligence AI provide ‘just in time information’ to contextualise what’s ahead,  giving people moving through the risks of the real world, the advantage of the time to respond  and seek help when necessary. We all need safety, no matter who we are and where we want to  go.

Times are changing fast. We’re accelerating into new challenges of the 2020s- the cost of living  crisis, economic downturns, civil unrest, strikes and protests, crimes and fear. We can watch as  the existing systems to move people fail without meeting the realities of the digital age, or  embrace technology as one of uniting forces, that helps move us into a new way of thinking,  designing and putting people’s right to be safe first.

This is the future we’re building. Starting with Safe & the City navigation app, evolving into i3  Intelligence AI and working with partners to think differently and have safety be a part of their  competitive edge now and in the future.

Software technologies can help save lives, shape a better tomorrow and unlock endless  possibilities when people’s right to move safely is top of mind. We look forward to being a part of  the journey at Highways UK conference for those that see that future too.

Technology for a Better Journey – Kristof Harling, TAKELEAP

Technology for a Better Journey – Kristof Harling, TAKELEAP

Kristof Harling, Executive Director at TAKELEAP, outlines the benefits of digital technology within road maintenance. 

The Department for Transport (DfT) has recognised the need to adopt new technology and AI driven data analytics to successfully deliver the UK’s Digital Roads initiative. This has led National Highways to initiate a development programme that looks to the future. As outlined in a 2021 Digital Roads report, the technology used in road asset management and maintenance data, forms an integral part of the strategy to safer roads. In this, it has been highlighted that how data is accurately captured, collated, standardised, and managed, needs greater investigation and agreement.

Driving advances in technology

An area of technology that is driving change in how road asset management and maintenance data is captured, is video analytics. This powerful AI based application can detect, identify, and categorise asset types through captured video footage. This mainly achieved via a DashCam mounted correctly on to the front windscreen. This means that maintenance companies can effectively and efficiently deploy teams and vehicles to record video footage on selected stretches of road, to collect the necessary data.

This video footage can then be uploaded and analysed in real-time, to provide a full report on assets by category. These category types can be an extensive list against each headline, e.g., road surface, drainage, signage, and protective barriers. Over time and using AI powered analysis, data can be used to determine immediate repair needs, as well as future needs within a specified time.

These prescriptive and predictive capabilities through a plug-and-play application, is a huge step from the existing Surface Condition Assessment for the National Network of Roads (SCANNER) technology. It does, however, open local councils and maintenance contractors up to using a variety of different technologies and methodologies when assessing assets. This creates a risk of disparages within the data lists, which is essential for the National Highways and the DfT to use for comparison and progress reporting.

As the DfT stated in August 2021’s Road Condition Data and Technology Review Position Paper, the DfT has formed a steering group in collaboration with an external standards agency. This group is formed of members from the DfT, local highway authorities, potential suppliers , and relevant sector bodies to discuss and explore data standards. A data standards proposal is planned to be released at the end of 2022.

If it ain’t broke, why fix it

So why the need and urgency for adopting new technology and to create a reliance on unified data? The Highways Performance Report for 2021 and 2022 gave a positive review of the National Highways’ ability to keep UK roads to a good standard. It reported that 95.3% of its road surface did not require further investigation for possible maintenance upon inspection. This surely indicates that current processes, procedures, and applications are working.

Not quite. They may be working but comparative data is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain as operating conditions change. The Government over the past decade has taken steps to find efficiencies in how the UK maintains the roads. In 2014 Highways England was formed as the steward of the strategic road network (SRN). This was a move to reform the way that England’s strategic roads are funded and managed and to introduce a five-year Road Investment Strategy (RIS).

This initiative introduced a savings target of £2.6 billion over ten years. Now, in the second phase of investment, RIS2 sets out an investment commitment of £27.4 billion from 2020 to 2025, but has increased the savings target for this period to £2.304 billion.

This target is a stretch in a post-pandemic Britain, where materials and labour costs have risen. According to research from the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, its members have seen a 22% rise in the cost of road maintenance.

The climate is also making an impact. Within the Preparing for Climate Change Report, published in January 2022, National Highways explains how extreme weather needs to be factored into SRN. As the severe floodings in late 2019 and early 2021, and the 40 degrees Celsius temperatures this summer become more common, the UK needs to build infrastructure and response procedures for such events.

There seems to be an expectation that monitoring, assessing, and maintaining road assets will become more informed and frequent. This increased activity will nudge National Highways to start maximising the use of owned data, asset management systems, and digital technology to make intelligence led decisions. Designing, implementing and adopting such an operating platform requires a monumental level of investment, collaboration, and grit. The headwinds caused by political, economic and environmental volatility are unwelcome counters to accelerated progress.

Moon Shots

Yet, progress is still being made. As National Highways moves forward in data gathering and AI driven analytics uses, a digital future is unfolding. Illustrated within the latest Digital Roads Report, a cognitive operating system is shown that uses digital twins for road assets, married with autonomous monitoring and maintenance vehicles, and remote diagnosis and assessment personnel. It sets the aspiration for a fluid data transfer between government, contractors, suppliers, and customers, to deliver an efficient, effective, and adaptive road operations network for a safer journey.

It’s a bold future, but one grounded in reality. As technology successfully returns rockets onto ocean-based landing pads and the everyday person shoots to the stars, there is no reason why an accelerated road to a digital future, cannot be part of our journey.




Hitting the bridge deck running as the new kid on the National Highways block – Rob Cook, Winvic

Hitting the bridge deck running as the new kid on the National Highways block – Rob Cook, Winvic

Rob Cook, Civils & Infrastructure Director at Winvic, talks about their delivery strategy and projects ahead of exhibiting at Highways UK this year.

Since I was appointed by Winvic in the brand-new role of Director for Civils and Infrastructure, it has been a whirlwind of strategic implementation and steady growth and two years has passed quicker than I ever thought possible. Capitalising on our expertise, experience and widely valued forward-thinking standards, our focus has been on winning contracts for infrastructure schemes and major rail freight interchanges, such as DIRFT III, SEGRO Logistics Park Northampton and West Midlands Interchange. Plus, we have also been appointed on large commercial and housing enabling projects as well as public sector highways frameworks. Having built excellent relationships with National Highways (NH) through numerous projects that have had Section 278, Section 38 and adjacent Smart Motorways programmes for almost 10 years, securing a place on the organisation’s new Scheme Delivery Framework (SDF) was the number one goal Winvic set its sights on.

The tender process was as robust as one would expect, and with our evidenced capabilities, innovative foresight and confidence in always doing the right thing – even if that means challenging the norm, on all areas from safety to materials used – we were successful. At the end of September 2021, we joined 49 other contractors on the Framework to deliver £3.6 billion of road renewal works on England’s motorways and trunk roads over the next six years. That was the easy bit! October was the start of a huge undertaking to plan, prepare and mobilise, from positioning team members to expanding on tender commitments and policies. As is in our DNA, there wasn’t a stone unturned between then and February 2022 to ensure the Framework requirements were met, and boy did we work hard. Nevertheless, it was also an exciting time as we waited to be given details and budget allocations for the circa 10 projects, in four geographical areas across two lots – Lot 8 Structures, Waterproofing and Expansion Joints and Lot 10 Structures, Structural Services and Concrete Repairs – that we were scheduled to deliver in the first year.

Winvic’s dedicated SDF office in Wakefield, just down the road from National Highways’ regional office, opened at the beginning of April at the same time as more planned project information emerged and liaison intensified. We began to look in detail at the schemes with the National Highways project managers, assign design teams where Early Contractor Involvement was possible and talk execution dates. Little did we know that none of these projects would be the first Winvic undertaking under the Framework; within a month we were asked to turn our attention to an emergency.

During a routine investigation by National Highways on the M62 bridge over the River Ouse, it was discovered that increased vibration from traffic has started to damage the concrete under lane three and a bridge joint, which allows the carriageway to expand and contract with the weather. Therefore, a contraflow was put in place to reduce eastbound traffic to one lane and keep drivers safe.

National Highways selected Winvic to assist as the team had the utmost confidence in our investigative, creative thinking and safety-first approach, and knew we had the skills immediately on hand to tackle such a large and unforeseen job. With Framework processes well in place by May, we were in the very best position to act fast with the aim of minimising disruption for the thousands of people who use the bridge. So, we began a raft of specialist surveys on the 1.6 kilometre, 40-metre-high structure that sits between Junctions 36 and 37 on the Yorkshire motorway. However, after an under-bridge inspection by one of Winvic’s structural engineers, we brought it to National Highways’ attention that there was excessive deflection within the cantilever deck section within Lane 3. While roads users are a top priority, safety comes higher on the list, and we recommended all traffic should be removed from this lane. Nevertheless, we on July 8th we installed some bridging plates, which enabled a single lane to be opened on the eastbound carriageway to enable traffic to exit at J37, helping to minimise disruption to motorist’s journeys.

Alongside the temporary solution, our team was also working with the National Highways Designer Jacobs, on designing the permanent answers and other associated works, comprising concrete and steel repairs, replacement bridge joints and improved drainage on the structure. There were two sets of bridging plates at our disposal, but one was not suitable for the structure and the second was less than ideal, so we advocated further research and sourced a plate more apt for the Ouse Bridge’s movement ranges. We have now installed these bridging plates over the damaged bridge joints as a temporary mitigation measure, and a second set will be added this autumn. We are also currently working as one team with a number of National Highways project partners on the complex design process required to replace all eight joints across both carriageways and it’s critical the solution reduces the need for full closures in the future as much as possible. The permanent installation programme will be undertaken in 2023 and is expected to be completed by autumn 2023.

The network plate design has just been approved and is about to be manufactured and the aim is to have these installed by the end of the year. Also, we have now started two out of the 10 other scheduled SDF schemes, which are joints and waterproofing projects based in Tingley and Lofthouse, being undertaken with daytime lane closures and weekend overnight closures to negate as much interruption to road users as possible.

In less than 12-months, we’ve not only won a place on the SDF and successfully prepared for mobilisation, but we’ve also hit the ground – or bridge deck! – running, illustrating we were the right contractor for the Framework. We are committed to meticulous planning, but we’re also equipped to react whenever required, we have experience in abundance, but we also champion finding new ways of doing things and we’re proud that National Highways values those attributes. Whether it’s capitalising on the efficiencies, reducing operational and embodied carbon or delivering benefits to the local communities in which we work, we’re here to do the right thing and steer the future of modern contracting

Could 5G connectivity be the changemaker technology for road safety? – Dr Dimitrios Kaltakis, WSP

Could 5G connectivity be the changemaker technology for road safety? – Dr Dimitrios Kaltakis, WSP

Dr Dimitrios Kaltakis, 5G and connectivity lead at WSP, outlines how network operators, vehicle manufacturers, and road operators must work together to achieve Vision Zero. 

As digital connectivity becomes increasingly vital – not just for the smooth but for the safe operation of transport networks – access to 5G can benefit a huge range of stakeholders and end users.

Today transport is more than just travel – it connects people to each other, to jobs, to vital services and it’s essential for the logistics we all depend on every day. All this relies not just on physical assets such as roads, bridges, and train tracks, but on data and digital connectivity.

The role of data in improving transport is well established. For example, on the roads, monitoring the highways network using cameras helps operators respond quickly to incidents, provide information, and keep traffic flowing. On the railways, CCTV helps keep passengers safe, while smart card readers at station barriers make ticketing seamless. All these systems and others work by getting data from A to B, and that requires a whole ecosystem of connectivity which includes 5G networks.

On-site safety and efficiency

5G networks can enable Vision Zero and pave the way for increased efficiencies and optimised construction times. Imagine having ubiquitous access to complex 3D models on-site or being able to stream a live feed of as-built information directly into BIM systems. A 5G network can enable this, increasing collaboration, reducing time spent on site and driving efficiencies.

An advanced 5G network can improve site safety too through the use of real-time video analytics and highly accurate asset and personnel tracking – raising the alarm if someone is in a dangerous situation. The ultra-low latency of 5G also makes it possible to operate machinery remotely, paving the way for site automation.

Once construction is finished, all or part of the 5G network could be used during the operational phase. This is where the neutral-host network model comes in. The UK is leading the way in adopting this approach, which involves a third-party wholesale carrier setting up infrastructure and selling access to mobile operators and other partners. With 5G connectivity in place, people get internet access, new data-driven use cases open-up, and transport operators can generate a revenue stream which would enable them to reinvest into improving the quality and safety of the network.

Ultra-fast data processing/Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM)

To deliver the 5G benefits at scale, operators need to deploy Mobile Edge solutions which bring the end-user closer to the mobile core, thus realising ultra-low latency, ultra-fast data processing and hence the full potential of 5G.

Private networks, either 4G or 5G, can achieve this but with 5G, network slicing will make it even easier to prioritise certain users or uses, with operators able to assign guaranteed slices of the network. Even if a network goes down for everyone else, emergency services – for example, would still be able to use it. This provides economies of scale and opens up even more safety-critical use cases.

Cellular Vehicle to everything services (C-V2X) could for example be one network “slice” enabling:

  • Emergency hazard warning between autonomous and connected vehicles,
  • Improved adaptive and emergency breaking
  • Rapid download of HD mapping data
  • Realisation of Vehicle to Pedestrian safety services
  • Improved vehicle to infrastructure service performance for connected, semi and fully autonomous vehicles

Network of networks

Realising these benefits while at the same time meeting people’s need to be always connected, to have constant access to fast internet for work, information, and entertainment not only at home and but also on the move requires connectivity everywhere – even at hard-to-reach areas. Indeed, the UK Government aspires to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible and is aiming for most of the population to have 5G coverage by 2030.

The advent of 5G is certainly an opportunity to connect both people and the systems on which our transport networks rely, wherever they are. But while there are no insurmountable technical barriers to doing so, making the most of the opportunity will require a new mindset.

Instead of relying solely on the traditional mobile network operators to bring coverage to an area, network operators/service providers, vehicle manufacturers, and road operators need to work together.

Ubiquitous connectivity enabled by 5G is the real changemaker here. For example, one can have low earth orbit (LEO) satellites complementing terrestrial public or private 5G networks providing secure and resilient PNT (Positioning, Navigation and Timing) for advanced CAM services, such as collision avoidance, that require ultra-precise timing and location of vehicles.

A network of networks that allows anyone to be connected anywhere with a quality of service that meets their needs is the future. The first steps to realising this future have already begun with the rollout of 5G-SA core networks, trials involving the use of satellite 5G-technology and the acceleration of the delivery of nationwide gigabit-capable connectivity.

Investing in digitisation offers great added value – Thomas Leopoldseder, Q Point

Investing in digitisation offers great added value – Thomas Leopoldseder, Q Point

Thomas Leopoldseder, CEO of Q Point, unpacks the potential of digital solutions within the road construction process.

Through the digitalization of business processes, internally or together with business partners, decisive competitive advantages can be achieved – construction projects can be completed on time and with the highest quality and at the same time economically. There is additional potential for resource-saving road construction in the optimization of the overall process.

Many studies still show that the construction industry has a low level of digitization compared to other branches of industry. At the same time, the construction industry is characterized by an extreme price war and digitization would help to design processes in a cost-optimal manner, improve work results and increase quality. Diversified value-added areas, heterogeneous devices and system landscapes as well as area and project thinking that has been shaped over decades, coupled with a low willingness to change based on past successes, present the greatest challenges for the industry today. Digital solutions and the networking of data create a level of transparency in individual processes that is not always desirable. This transparency or, in other words, the project-wide and sometimes cross-project availability of data and information, is the basis for the new form of cooperation and thus the basis for relevant effects on resources, costs and emissions.

Today, processes, requirements and use of resources based on their specification, availability and costs are optimally calculated using intelligent process systems during the calculation and planning. The relevant information is available to all executors and those involved in a role-specific manner. Updates on the status and a comparison with the original plan are made available to all those involved in the implementation, regardless of location. This increases the planning and execution security for everyone and supports the resource-optimal use of people, machines, and materials.

Some examples of resource-saving work through digital process support:

  • Digital implementation planning leads to the optimal deployment and utilization of personnel, machines and materials.
  • Digital order management creates higher commitments and the basis for more efficient production and logistics planning
  • Optimized number and types of trucks for asphalt logistics reduce costs, cycles and emissions.
  • Dynamic adjustments during implementation always ensure the best possible project success.
  • Digital assistance systems for comprehensive compaction control (CCC) reduce the operating times of machines and personnel and lead to the highest quality.

The reduction of waste of resources and the simultaneous fight against the lack of skilled workers is made possible by the networking of people, systems and processes. With its solutions, Q Point creates the necessary connections for the intelligent road construction of the future. Achieving more together through effectively used transparency of the relevant data. This promotes trust and cooperation as the basis for more successful, less waste on the construction from which everyone benefits. This includes the entire value chain, from the client to contractors and subcontractors, as well as suppliers and consumers. Efficiency and sustainability through transparency lead to WIN-WIN-WIN.

You can find more information about the digital solutions from Q Point here:

Dr. Thomas Leopoldseder, Managing Director | CEO Q Point Group will present the digital solutions for road construction at Highways UK. Get in touch and visit Q Point at booth H28

Do standards stifle innovation? – Andy Fish, 3M

Do standards stifle innovation? – Andy Fish, 3M

Andy Fish, technical specialist for 3M’s Transportation Safety Division, looks at how to encourage innovation in a regulated market. 

As someone who has sat on many standard setting committees and industry bodies, across several industries, I have often pondered why things are the way they are.

Standards play an important role in many industries; and in a market that is primarily focused on safety, they are critical. As such, standards set out to do many things, including providing a common description of product types, set minimum levels of performance, describe classes of useful performance, identify testing methods, and provide tools for the certification of products.

All the above are intended to ensure that the supplied product is suitable for purpose and enable the purchaser to make an informed decision based on a true comparison.

However, like all things, there are negative aspects to standards. While some of these are easily solved, others are not so straightforward.

Arguably the most challenging aspect is time. Standards take a long time to come to fruition, they are often many years in the making – and even small amendments can take an extraordinary length of time to be published. Meanwhile, many product manufacturers are improving their designs and finding new ways to improve performance with technology that did not exist when the underlying standard was first drafted. This lag ultimately means that the end user does not benefit for years, sometimes decades.

Sometimes standards are worded in such a way that they actively exclude new innovations by calling out a specific technology rather than a performance characteristic. As an example, the current standard for permanent traffic signs contains tables for the performance of retroreflective sheeting, one of which specifically refers to materials constructed with glass beaded reflectors. Specifying a technology in this way prevents new technologies being used. After all it should not matter how the material is constructed the end user probably does not care if it is made with glass beads or fairy dust. What matters is how it performs. Does it do the job it is supposed to do?

These things happen because people tend to think about what they know, the current state-of-the-art solution. To paraphrase Henry Ford, if you asked people what they wanted 100 or so years ago they would not have said “a car” they would have said “a faster horse that eats less hay” as this is what they knew at the time. The underlying need was to get from A to B, cheaply and quickly.

When authoring standards, we need to be focused on the purpose of the product and, most importantly, what that means to the end user, NOT what is currently possible with today’s technology, and NOT what the majority of manufacturers can make.

Of course, there are ways to accelerate the implementation of new technologies by conducting trials and creating test beds, for example, but this requires more cooperation from all parties.

Manufacturers need to clearly identify the benefits of their nascent technology and purchasers need to be clear on their needs alongside being more open to try something different that might just be more effective.

While we cannot predict the future, we can do much more to ensure that the consumer gets the best possible product by focusing on what the customer needs, not the industry’s current capability.


Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions – Mathew Haslam, Hardscapes

Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions – Mathew Haslam, Hardscapes

Mathew Haslam, managing director at Hardscape outlines their extensive product range with the UK’s largest selection of Connectivity Solutions Products.

Proudly independent and with over 25 years of expertise in pushing the boundaries of hard landscaping, Hardscape is driven by innovation and the ambition of providing environmentally conscious hard landscaping. Its latest range is integrated infrastructure design solutions which are used to create an improved health and wellbeing environment safe for cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles.

Our kerb range is available with different slopes, end styles, widths, depths, gradients, and radii which provide a practical purpose in both form and function, in a variety of colours in standard concrete, natural stone and Kellen Lavaro finishes.

Renowned for leading the way, bringing inspiration and innovation from around the globe, Hardscape provide Landscape Architects and Specifiers with unrivalled quality and function in a range of natural and man-made materials.

The Future of Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions.

2020 saw an unprecedented change in public behaviour in the UK, and throughout the world; in particular, during lockdown, the levels of walking and cycling increased and have remained high following the lifting of these restrictions. As a result, the UK government, influenced by the success of Dutch cycling, have fast tracked the statutory guidance, indicating local authorities should reallocate road space to accommodate significantly increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, providing a safe way for all age groups to use healthier methods of transportation.

The extensive research, detailed specification, and implementation of Hardscape’s new range of ‘Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions’ is reflective of Hardscape’s DNA and its commitment to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). Hardscape also see this as the natural next step in how external space designers, engineers and planners redesign landscapes with cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles in mind, creating an urban environment that all users can share space equitably and safely.

Paving the way with Dutch inspired policy and design.

Since the 1970s the Dutch have mastered creating a safer environment, inviting cycling and people to safely share existing travel infrastructure. For the Dutch to achieve this environmentally friendly connectivity strategy they have developed intelligent, logical, coherent kerb systems for actively segregating transport modes and methods.

Working with Dutch product solutions for over 20 years, Hardscape have the knowledge and distribution networks to now bring this innovative product range to the UK market.

Offering extensive options for every conceivable project, Hardscape’s new range bridges the gap between optimum design and attractive infrastructure spaces making them accessible for all.

“We are introducing these products to the UK with the support and impetus of the UK government’s wellbeing principles and directives. We hope to inspire the next generation of connected towns and cities that are brave in specification and designed to bring a long-lasting benefit for us all.” – Mathew Haslam- Managing Director, Hardscape.  

Discover more about Hardscape’s Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions.

The breadth of material types, from natural stone, traditional concrete, and natural stone aggregate finishes strengthens Hardscape’s position as the principal paving provider for every application. Hardscape also offers a reduced carbon range of green paving solutions, with its CERO brand; CERO uses a geo-polymer material to replace concrete reducing carbon impact by up to 50%.

To discuss this dynamic and ever-expanding range of Inclusive Infrastructure Solutions products visit:

Attracting new labour into highways – Ben Rawding, JCB

Attracting new labour into highways – Ben Rawding, JCB

Ben Rawding from JCB stresses the importance of new technologies to tackle the labour shortages and attract new talent to the sector. 

Today the highways teams within British local authorities face a number of challenges, and as an industry we must do more to support them. The work of a highways operative can often be physically challenging, dangerous and unappreciated. Consequently, we are facing a labour shortage, with a concerning trend towards an aging workforce. An unnamed authority has recently conducted a review to assess exact this – with resulting showing an average age of over 50 years for their highways operatives and a troubling level of absence.

If we hope to tackle the unprecedent backlog faced by our highways teams then we must provide them with the necessary tools to mechanise their repair processes and attract new youthful labour into the many open vacancies. The so called ‘PlayStation generation’ will simply not accept roles if they are expected to risk their personal health, through unnecessary manual handling or risk Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. This cannot be understated as exposure to hand arm vibration (HAV) can lead to a combination of neurological (nerve), vascular (circulation) and musculoskeletal symptoms, collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The Health and Safety Executive have identified HAVS as one of the basic health and safety mistakes crippling British industry. This avoidable risk is something we must eliminate; plastering over the issue with vibration monitoring wrist watches is simply not the answer.

British manufacturers such as JCB have recognised this significant issue and feel the burden of being one of the true engineering giants left in this nation. As a result, the PotholePro was born – an innovation driven by JCB Chairman, Lord Bamford. He tasked the finest engineers within the business to address this ever-growing issue. Since launch in 2021, the PotholePro has been supporting local authorities across the UK by mechanising their repair process, eliminating all HAVS risk and attracting a new generation of talent into the highways industry. Operatives have gone from using jack hammers / circular saws to instead repairing the defects from a zero vibration cabin – the heated air suspension seat has also helped!

It must not be forgotten that HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent. A similar story can be said with unnecessary operatives placed unprotected in a live carriageway. If the preparation of the defect can be completely by a machine, without the operator having to leave the comfort of their cab – then this significantly reduces the risks involved. This is not a move to remove the requirement for labour, but instead diversify the tasks and methodology. The individuals who would previously be working on defect preparation, now focus on reinstatement – attempting to keep pace with the machine leading the process line.

As a result, local authorities have reported that operative job satisfaction has improved as they no longer have to carry cumbersome jack hammers, lift large pieces of spoil surface into their truck. Both of these processes, along with the planning, is undertaken with a single machine. To aid this, they have upskilled their operatives to drive the PotholePro, supported by free of charge training from JCB that includes the full CPCS qualification. The remaining operatives focus on reinstatement – to which they have commented is the “satisfying” element.

Whether it is a PotholePro or alternative machinery, it is essential that we mechanise the highways repair processes, providing an up-skilled labour force with the necessary tools to fix more defects in a safer, economical, and permanent manner. Analysis from authorities such as Stoke-on-Trent City Council has demonstrated that mechanisation can transform the whole highways department. They have repaired over 7-years’ worth of defects in just 12 months. Not only have they repaired significantly more defects, but they have drastically lowered their cost per defect as a result. The workforce is more motivated as the machine has ‘picked up the slack’. In fact, one of their operatives has been using jack hammers for 30 years but has been converted to using the PotholePro. Furthermore, the new work methods have changed the perception of the team and as a result, they are able to attract a younger generation of operatives into their department.

Could innovations in wireless communications be the key to better roadworker safety? – dBD Communications

Could innovations in wireless communications be the key to better roadworker safety? – dBD Communications

Brooke Wood from dDB Communications emphasises the need for investment in wireless communications to improve roadworker safety.

Every day and night, over 3,000 highways engineers work across the UK’s 670-mile network of motorways and A-roads to keep our roads safe and moving.

However, they are faced with multiple hazards that cause around 20 serious injuries every year (according to DfT figures), and many more moderate injuries.

According to the latest statistics from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) 2019/2020 figures, the number of injuries in construction (including highways engineering) is increasing. Construction is now the third most dangerous industry in the UK, with fatal injury being four times higher compared to all other industries.

Almost half of the fatal injuries to workers over the last five years were accounted for by just two different accident types – falls from a height and being struck by a moving vehicle (both big risks in highways engineering).

The unique challenge in roadworks safety

Although much is being done to improve site safety, highways construction remains immensely challenging. There’s all manner of heavy machinery and equipment in constant motion, often in restrictive areas. If you add in pedestrian traffic and night working, highways engineering and maintenance presents with some unique challenges.

The risk for non-authorised or planned vehicles entering the work site and injuring workers is far greater than in any other industry. In fact, National Highways reported that there were almost 6,500 incidents of vehicle incursions on roadworks sites between October 2017 and October 2020 – 175 per month.

Looking at the total number of road maintenance workers killed or seriously injured whilst at work on the road network, in Great Britain (since 2010), there’s been a steady year-on-year increase according to the DfT figures. In a Freedom of Information request made on 10 March 2020, the DfT confirmed that between 2010 and 2018, there had been 10 roadworkers fatally injured and 76 seriously injured.

Beyond improving pedestrian driver awareness, roadworker safety, and onsite guidance, what more can be done?

Learning from railway engineering

Improvements to highways worker safety could be made by replicating similar wireless communications solutions seen in railway engineering.

In 2011, Network Rail mandated that all rail construction workers use duplex wireless systems to improve communications and worker safety.

If you are wondering what duplex wireless systems are, the best way to explain their use is by comparing them to back-to-back radios.

Back-to-back radios, while fantastic pieces of equipment, have limited use in high-traffic, high noise environments since only one person can talk at a time and everyone is forced to listen. If an incident were to occur away from the person talking, until they stopped transmitting, no one else can be advised of a potential hazard or threat. Duplex communications resolve this problem by allowing multiple users to talk and listen at the same time.

Some duplex systems, allow up to 16 users to communicate at the same time with headsets that are adapted for each roadworker’s task. For example, one engineer may require maximum situational awareness where their colleague may require hearing protection with closed ear domes.

Offering an uninterrupted wireless range of up to 100 metres for two-users and 500 metres for three or more users, duplex wireless systems are ideal for:

  • Managing sites with heavy highways machinery
  • Civil engineering construction work
  • Increasing engineer situational awareness (and therefore safety)
  • Improving efficiency between trades (to get the job done quicker)
  • Managing onsite traffic

As with railway engineering, highways engineers have the additional issue of transmission blind spots. This could be due to any number of things. It could be a tunnel, a corner or a long distance. Duplex wireless systems can offer a solution as they can be adapted to meet these challenges.

Likewise, back-to-back radios, which integrate with duplex wireless systems, can be extended by using the mobile phone architecture, with ranges of up to 30 miles.

Controlling unauthorised vehicles

Using wireless radio frequency (RF) technology, worksite entrance points can also be monitored, with workers instantly alerted to any intrusion, whether a vehicle or a person. If an intrusion occurs, an alarm sounds within the roadworker’s headset and enables them to respond in line with site guidance.

Where do you start with improving onsite communications?

There are hundreds of applications for wireless communications in highways engineering. The best piece of advice though, is to speak directly with the manufacturer who should explore your communication challenge before recommending the most practical solution.






How mobility hubs and shared transport can play a key role in the UK’s journey to net zero – Richard Dilks,  CoMoUK

How mobility hubs and shared transport can play a key role in the UK’s journey to net zero – Richard Dilks, CoMoUK

Richard Dilks, Chief Executive at CoMoUK, explains how mobility hubs and shared transport schemes can play a significant role in the UK’s journey to Net Zero by cutting congestion and carbon emissions while improving air quality and the nation’s health.


Richard Dilks, Chief Executive at CoMoUK

At Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK), we want to build on the strong growth in the shared transport sector to further extend its ability to deliver low carbon, lower cost sustainable transport options across the UK.

This is part of reducing dependency on privately-owned cars which are generally inefficiently used, costly to own or lease, take up a lot of space and are the major component of transport emissions in the UK.

Transport is in turn this country’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, producing more than a quarter of the UK’s total emissions. Its emissions have not fallen in a generation.

We can’t hope to meet our climate change targets without greater use of shared transport as part of a broader sustainable transport package of public transport and active travel too.

That’s why we would like to see car clubs, bike sharing, shared rides and demand responsive transport spread across rural, island, suburban and urban areas.

Part of this shift can come from mobility hubs, which have been hugely successful in transforming the lives of people and businesses in parts of Europe.

Mobility hubs bring public transport together with walking and cycling options and shared transport.

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ design, they can include community facilities such as cafés, fitness areas, green space, package collection points, Wi-Fi and phone charging, real-time journey planning information, walking areas and disabled access.

We believe these hubs can contribute to the goal of creating ‘20 minute neighbourhoods’, which enable people to live, learn and meet their needs within a 20 minute walk of their home.

They are common in a number of comparator countries such as Germany, Austria, Belgium and Norway as well as in many US cities.

Both the UK and Scottish governments are keen on these hubs, and the first CoMoUK -accredited one has already opened in a suburb of London and with plans underway for several in Scotland.

We believe the creation of more mobility hubs around the UK can help with meeting climate change targets, while also bringing energy and excitement to urban centres and providing new opportunities and connectivity for some of the country’s most deprived areas.

Benefits include reducing the dominance of private car use and the associated problems of congestion, carbon emissions, poor air quality and social exclusion.

They also offer convenience and choice with the possibility of seamless switches and improved links between different layers of transport.

Mobility hubs can lead to improved access for vulnerable users and can help to improve overall public transport networks by plugging gaps in connections.

Before the Covid pandemic, over two thirds of Scotland’s commuters drove to work by car or van, and 66 per cent of all car journeys in Scotland were single occupancy trips.

Government figures for England also suggest that 62 per cent of all car or van journeys were made by a lone driver in 2019, rising to 89 per cent for commuting journeys.

Persuading the public to transition from petrol and diesel cars to electric alternatives has long been talked up as a silver bullet.

But while they may be better for the environment, they are no less guilty of causing congestion and the manufacturing process is just as environmentally unfriendly.

Instead, we would like to see greater use of bike hire schemes, car clubs, ride sharing and demand responsive transport.

In a recent survey by CoMoUK, more than half of users of bike share schemes said they would have made their last trip by car or taxi if the option to hire a bike had not been available.

Meanwhile, our research finds that the number of people signed up to car clubs in Scotland is now at an all time high of 38,000.

To increase vehicle occupancy, we believe employers and large organisations can do more to incentivise ride sharing and carpooling for commuting journeys and business trips – particularly as employees begin to return to workplaces as Covid restrictions are lifted.



Richard Dilks is chief executive of the UK’s national shared transport charity Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK). It was established in 1999 and is dedicated to the public benefit of shared transport such as shared cars, bikes, e-scooters and rides.

Richard is speaking at Highways UK on 2-3 November about how mobility hubs and shared transport schemes can play a significant role in the UK’s journey to Net Zero

“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.

Yotta are exhibiting once again at Highways UK this year on 2-3 November at the NEC in Birmingham on stand I4

Smart cities need smart highways and roads

Smart cities need smart highways and roads

Transport is one of the main contributors to carbon emissions in London and to meet the Mayor’s ambitious target to make the capital a net zero city by 2030 we will need to dramatically increase smart and electric transport alternatives – and not just electric cars! And to achieve this, there is a pressing need to consider the role of highways and streets within the emerging digital ecosystem, says Nathan Pierce, Head of Smart London and Sharing Cities at the Greater London Authority.


nathan pierce
Nathan Pierce, Head of Smart London and Sharing Cities, Greater London Authority

Our highways are connectors; to, from and within our cities. Today, cities are under increasing pressure to develop more effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and smart infrastructure is essential for this modernisation. A good example is smart mobility. The demand for intelligent mobility solutions that make it easier for people and goods to be transported to, from and through cities is growing. And so many cities have stepped up to the challenge, working across sectors to find solutions that work for their citizens.

Our major international smart cities venture – Sharing Cities – is addressing some of the most pressing urban challenges facing urban areas today. Three lighthouse cities (London, Lisbon, Milan) have implemented a range of green tech and data services in close collaboration with three fellow cities (Bordeaux, Burgas, Warsaw) to test out the latest thinking and to scale up what works.

After drawing on nearly €25 million in EU funding, the project has triggered nearly €270 million in investment in an effort to expand a smart strategy that involves energy use, low carbon transport and data management. 34 partners in Sharing Cities from the private sector – both large and small – public sector and academic institutions have collaborated to develop workable business models for smart technologies that can be scaled up and replicated across other UK and European cities. In doing so they have supported the growth of the green tech market.

All six cities have demonstrated the benefits that using green tech and working together can have on carbon reduction and service delivery. In the first phase we implemented building retrofits, e-mobility, sustainable energy management systems, smart street infrastructure (such as smart lampposts), urban sharing platforms and digital incentivisation applications. Using the learnings from lighthouse cities, fellow cities co-designed, validated and implemented similar solutions and models within their own city contexts.

In the world of mobility, we have managed to shift the dial on how our cities approach mobility as a service and shared transport solutions. We have deployed over ten mobility islands across our cities and demonstrated the contribution they make. We have deployed 1,000s of publicly owned shared bikes which have led to improvements in cycling infrastructure, especially in Lisbon. We have converted entire municipal fleets to electric vehicles with very positive results. And we have tested a whole range of parking sensors and traffic management technologies that can help us to reach our climate targets.

We know that this technology can have a real impact, now we want to reach out to various sectors and boroughs across London to understand how we can scale up what works and link in with existing transit plans.

Nathan Pierce is Head of Smart London and Sharing Cities, Greater London Authority. Nathan is speaking on the Big Thinking Stage at Highways UK (12.50, 3 November). He will further explore how highways and transport fit within the smart city context and London’s 2030 net-zero ambitions, while providing latest insights from the international Sharing Cities programme.

How vehicle sensor data is underpinning a revolution in road safety

How vehicle sensor data is underpinning a revolution in road safety

Steve Birdsall, CEO of Gaist, provider of roadscape insight and intelligence services, explains the very real possibility of a revolution in road safety

In the past decade, the role of data within the built environment has changed dramatically. An explosion in the information available to infrastructure asset owners and operators, the emergence of technologies and digital processes such as BIM and digital twins and advances in analytics, have transformed how we understand the world around us.

For those managing and interacting with our roads, this data revolution is starting to unlock benefits including optimising network performance, driving efficiencies and – critically – improving safety.

The richer the level of information and insights available to roads decision-makers, the greater the depth of analysis, the better informed they are and the better positioned they are to respond to defects and challenges on the network.

This data is not just becoming available to the decision maker. Road users will soon be able to access real-time information about the condition of roads.

Advancing road safety
Today, a new development is set to further deepen our understanding of the network and facilitate a huge step forward in road safety.

Data captured from sensors within regular passenger vehicles can now be used to provide on-the-ground ‘live’ detail about road friction, road roughness, temperature, and surface defects.

As an example of how this data could be used, the implications for the winter-market particularly are huge. Decision making by Winter Duty Managers over when and how to treat the network has traditionally been based on Road Weather Information Systems, which though time tested, have well documented limitations.

But armed with this next-level of dynamic data – combined with other reliable data sources such as radar and satellite images – those responsible for managing our roads networks and keeping them open and safe during the winter period will be far better informed and empowered to predict and plan their interventions.

Take gritting routes. With this rich data, our knowledgeable and experienced winter service managers will have at their disposal far greater detail of how gritting routes are responding to treatment and how drivers are experiencing travelling on those gritted routes.

Fed into a winter service strategy and used to combine with and complement other winter specific features, this information can be deployed not just in one season but to drive continual improvement for future years.

This will provide evidence to quickly respond to key questions such as what parts of the network should we treat? when should we treat them? and what treatments should be carried out?

So how does it work?
The real time datasets consist of a combination of tyre-road friction readings, ambient temperature and windscreen wiper speeds from passenger vehicles traversing the road network. This is then used to create a set of map layers to give winter maintenance professionals access to a level of detailed information with which to inform their decisions.

The readings are all mapped using GPS and timestamped and are never the result of data from one vehicle – there is an established minimum threshold of vehicles from which data is drawn.

The real-time dynamic datasets will be accessible for the first time to local authorities and networks from Safecote, a Gaist partner, through its BM Roads System.

Advancing our mission
At Gaist, we have always been laser-focused on our mission to provide the deepest and richest possible intelligence about our roads to support critical areas including the safety of the network. With this latest development, we are proud to continue to honour that commitment.

Steve Birdsall Talking Heads; How vehicle sensor data is underpinning a revolution in road safety
Steve Birdsall is CEO of Gaist

Steve Birdsall will further explore how vehicle sensor technology is transforming asset managers’ approach to road safety at Highways UK, which is running at the NEC on 3/4 November. Other contributors to the session include Björn Zachrisson from Nira Dynamics in Sweden and Paul Boss, Chief Executive of Road Surface Treatments Association. For more information on Highways UK, including how to book your free exhibition and conference pass, go to

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.