Delivering Vision Zero will be challenging and resource intensive. The timeframe for delivery also requires focus on what matters most in reducing the number and severity of casualties says Jeremy Phillips, leader of CEDR’s Working Group on Road Safety
The ambition to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries (KSI) on our road networks, often to zero and within relatively short timeframes, is shared amongst several countries and individual road administrations across Europe.
In England, National Highways’ own ambition, for example, is to achieve Vision Zero (in which no one dies or is seriously injured as a consequence of working or travelling on its network) by 2040.
Safe travel is, in general terms, achieved when safe people travel in safe vehicles on safe roads. While national road administrations have direct control over just one of those factors – safe roads – they can exert a wider influence over factors that are linked to collision and casualty reduction. Supporting road users in achieving safe and compliant behaviours, and motivating vehicle manufacturers to design for greater safety are examples of the wider influence exerted by road administrations.
Safe roads remain, however, the area in which the greatest influence may be exerted. It is in this context that CEDR’s Working Group on Road Safety has considered the main challenges that will be faced by roads directors over the next five to ten years. They have outlined the challenges in a position paper which will be discussed at the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR), which is taking place as part of this year’s Highways UK.
The challenges outlined include ensuring a strong link between road safety ambitions and the sustainability agenda. And acknowledging and exploiting areas of common purpose, such as managed speeds for injury reduction, collision avoidance and pollution control.
The paper also acknowledges the importance of delivering safety across the entire road network. There are clear benefits derived from enhancing the safety of routes that carry the highest flows of traffic. But a vision for zero KSI requires that all roads need to deliver the same level of performance, and consequently require proportionate levels of investment. The pathway to achieving this will be one of prioritisation. This presents a further challenge to roads administrators to share data and intelligence, to help ensure that we collectively achieve the greatest good for the greatest number in the shortest possible time.
Similarly, the paper recognises that a zero KSI ambition requires that enhanced safety is provided for all categories of road user. This is a challenge that becomes more demanding as the types of roads for which an administration is responsible becomes wider. Physical infrastructure to segregate modes, especially those most vulnerable to injury, and to protect those working on the highway will be an important contributor. But it will also be a challenge where road space is limited.
New technologies, including digitisation, are likely to make a significant contribution to casualty reduction. Roads authorities have a role to play in supporting technological advancement, especially in providing the data that will enable more digitised vehicles to operate efficiently. There will also be challenges in managing the transition period between now, and a future in which connected and autonomous vehicles are dominant.
Delivering Vision Zero will not be easy and it will require considerable resource to achieve. The relatively short time period over which this needs to be done also means that road administrations will need to focus on the measures that matter most, and which are most likely to ensure fewer casualties. The Working Group for Road Safety’s paper will help to provide that focus, whilst accepting that decisions about priorities will be greatly influenced by the challenges faced by each road administration in their own jurisdiction.
Jeremy Phillips is the Leader of the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR) Working Group on Road Safety. He is also Head of Road User Safety at National Highways. His presentation: The Main Road Safety Challenges for European Roads Directors for the next five to ten years – towards Vision Zero, will be held in the National Highways theatre at 9.45 – 10.00 on Thursday 4 November at Highways UK.
Fiona O’Donnell, Jacob’s Head of Health, Safety and Environemnt (HSE) outlines her organisation’s efforts to break down the barriers that hinder honest conversations about mental health and encourage an open culture of support around the globe
How would you feel if you had a tool that allowed you to check your mental health regularly to spot early warning signs, avoid prolonged suffering and treatment and increase your mental resilience? That’s what our One Million Lives campaign is all about, and I’m proud to be its champion…
At Jacobs we’ve been supporting the mental health of our colleagues for a long time by hosting a mental health resilience programme, dealing with topics such as navigating the challenges of lockdown, how to build resilience and coping with grief.
However, insights from the programme, combined with feedback received from mental health champions, employee surveys and conversations with mental health experts all highlighted the need for more proactive and preventative solutions. And that’s where we decided to develop ‘One Million Lives.’
Launched in December 2020 One Million Lives is a complimentary campaign accessible to everyone, no matter where you live, or who you work for. It’s as relevant to people working in the Highways sector as to any other area of activity. Many people don’t have access to corporate resources or Employee Assistance Programs, so we wanted to develop a tool that detects early signs of mental distress and offers proactive strategies, such as sleep, exercise, and social media behaviours.
Our goal? To break down the barriers that hinder honest conversations about mental health and encourage an open culture of support around the globe.
To complement the app we developed a website with additional resources to help you to engage with the One Million Lives campaign and help you with your mental health growth. By inviting people to routinely check-in to see how they are doing and encourage their own networks to do the same, we hope more people will become aware of their state of mental health.
While still in its infancy, the data collected to date (14,000 check-ins) has already helped us at Jacobs to gain insights into the mental wellbeing of our employees, and allowed us to make informed, data-driven decisions in response.
We, and many other organisations believe that this campaign has the potential to transform our collective approach to mental health. But ultimately One Million Lives is more than just about an app or a website. It’s about encouraging everyone to have open and honest conversations.
To learn more about One Million Lives make sure you look out for Fiona’s session at Highways UK running on the Big Thinking Stage at 2pm on 4 November. Highways UK is free to attend, book your place now
What does equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) mean to you? asks Rachel Billington Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I), Europe at AECOM. Is it a more diverse workforce? Is it flexible working? Getting students interested in STEM? A bid requirement? Or is it something that’s for the human resources department to deal with?
From my perspective, it’s not one of the above, it’s all of the above and so much more. Yes, it means recruiting a more diverse workforce, it means rounder educational opportunities and it means there are some legal obligations around it too as part of the Equality Act 2010. And any of us involved in bids know ED&I is nowadays routinely mandated in procurement.
But the responsibility for a workforce where everyone has fair opportunity, which is diverse and where people feel included, is also down to every single one of us. In an organisation where ED&I truly works, the principles are integrated both at a corporate and personal level.
Many people think ED&I is about celebrating difference and events, and this is really important, but there is more to it if you want to really bring about cultural change. This means at a corporate level ensuring a robust and effective strategy, with supporting governance, to encourage ED&I. This not only locks-in good practice, it sets a precedent about the values of that company, which can cascade down from management to staff. But how well does industry do this?
When we’re thinking about ourselves and our impact on ED&I, it involves taking a step back and thinking about what we do and how our own biases can impact others. Whether that’s an off-the-cuff comment or a decision about staffing.
On a personal level, the issue can sometimes include behaviours we’re not aware of. At AECOM I recently held a webinar on microaggressions and the negative impact on the way they make people feel in the workplace. Have you ever been in a situation where the only woman in a meeting is automatically asked to take notes or a person from a different ethnicity being asked where they’re really from? Some of these microaggressions don’t come from malice, but how can we deal with these situations better? How can we raise awareness?
I believe a good place to start is to become comfortable in having difficult discussions. One way we have done this at AECOM is by launching our employee resource groups, or ERGs. By sharing experiences, ideas and opinions, we can better understand why ED&I is important to the industry, but also understand what challenges the industry and our people face when dealing with the issues which arise from this.
It’s not a new issue, so we need to take stock and ask ourselves whether we’ve made tangible progress and what has worked well. And how well are we engaging leaders and holding them to account for delivering meaningful change in industry?
Rachel Billington is Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I), Europe at AECOM. She is convening a panel at Highways UK on 3 November to explore these issues further and will be joined by Ron Calderwood-Duncan – Head of EDI & Engagement at National Highways, Jyoti Sehdev – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Costain, and Rory Poole, Roads Sector Leader, UK & Ireland at AECOM.
National Highways has been working with the government’s Project Speed infrastructure taskforce to develop ways of accelerating the delivery of major road schemes, making it says National Highways’ director David Haimes, “an exciting and challenging opportunity for us and our suppliers to transform how we work together”
Rebuilding the economy and levelling up the country are two of the great opportunities and challenges for us in the highways industry. The Prime Minister announced the Build Back Better, Faster, Greener initiative last year. Since then National Highways has been working with the government’s Project Speed infrastructure taskforce to develop ways of accelerating the delivery of major road schemes.
So far we have almost halved the timeline for the construction period of the £1 billion A66 trans-Pennine road upgrade, from ten years to five. We’ll achieve the time savings, together with our supply chain partners, by using even more modular and offsite construction practices.
We’ve also taken a detailed look at the A66 project timelines to see where we can shift activity to the left and fast track work streams. For example, site investigation and archaeology work have been undertaken within the preliminary design stage. This will support a robust development consent order (DCO).
But the A66 is only a pathfinder for what we want to do next with our supply chain colleagues. Working with the Department for Transport, we want reduce the time it takes to develop, design and deliver. We’ll use new processes that modernise our approach and remove obstacles to progress. And we want to streamline how we run major projects in National Highways, working with our public and private delivery partners. We’ll be looking to embed delivery innovations like those we have used on the A66 and A14.
So the challenge for the highways sector is to accelerate the economic, social and road user benefits by delivering faster. To create and enable new jobs, better connect businesses with customers, and make social and holiday journeys easier for families and friends. And to add social value to local communities and improve the environment around our network.
There is an exciting and challenging opportunity for us and our suppliers to transform how we work together, and connect the country even more quickly and efficiently.
David Haimes is joint director of National Highways’ Regional Investment Programme and is leading the company’s work on accelerating infrastructure delivery. Suppliers will learn much more when David unveils the plan alongside Philip Andrews, Deputy Director of Strategic Roads at the Department for Transport, in the National Highways Theatre at Highways UK on 3 November, at 14.40 – 15.15
Setting net zero targets is the easy bit. The difficult bit is all about the practical measures to get from here to there, says Sir Dieter Helm, Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford. And when it comes to electric vehicle charging the lack of an overarching framework risks turning a competitive opportunity into the wild west
Setting net zero targets, especially when they are 30 years away, is the easy bit. The difficult bit is all about the practical measures to get from here to there. That is all the more challenging when it means tackling the long-neglected sources of emissions—notably transport, heating and agriculture. By setting an intermediary target to stop selling diesel and petrol cars, the government has willed the end; now it has to will the means, and especially when the target is less than ten years away.
Putting aside both the environmental problems that electric cars bring and alternatives like hydrogen, the urgent immediate step is to have a nationwide efficient car-charging system. We probably need much of this to be in place within the next five years.
You might think that with such an imperative over such a short timescale, there would be a national car charging infrastructure plan; that it would be designed around the electricity grid and the regional distribution networks; and that there would be a core utility, backed by a regulatory asset base, with a capital expenditure programme to deliver the necessary infrastructure by a specified date.
Not a bit of it. It’s being driven bottom up, by competing companies trying to grab the best bits of the market without an overarching framework. It is a wild west, driven by the conflicting commercial interests and, in the case of the oil companies, the protection and enhancements of their existing fossil-fuel charging stations. Electricity supply companies are in on the act, and, again, this reflects the same sort of commercial incentives that brought us the shambles of the smart meter rollout. Meanwhile the car companies have no interest in standardising the batteries, and are unwilling to contemplate the obvious answer—to switch batteries when charging is necessary.
Given the sheer scale of the challenges and the urgency, it would be quite hard to make this up. My hunch is that when we get to 2030, the target will be pushed back. Nor is this unique to electric vehicle charging. The same sort of shambolic bottom-up approach is being pushed in home heating, somehow imagining that banning gas boilers is going to magic up an alternative heating system. When it comes to agriculture, government is not really trying at all.
It could all be so much better. There could have a much better chance of meeting the deadlines, and because it could be much more efficient, it could be a lot cheaper. The way to start is with the end game: a universal service obligation that provides all the citizens with access to electric charging. With the end in mind, the next step is to sketch out what a national charging system, as a core utility, might look like. It does not have to fill in all the details. These will need to be flexible. But it does need to sort out the main bits: the charging backbone and how this sits with the electric networks. This needs a system operator, and it needs a utility structure and a regulatory framework to ensure that investment costs are recovered. It does not need a single company to actually do the works; that can be competitive. But it does need a plan to work to.
The most likely outcome is that the government will keep on trying to make competition deliver a natural monopoly, until it is obvious that it is failing. Even then it may not give up. But, in the end, we will have a national charging infrastructure—just too late, and too costly.
Professor Sir Dieter Helm will expand on these ideas in his contribution to this year’s Highways UK, taking place at the NEC on 3/4 November. Free to attend, book your place now
And for further insight check out Dieter’s latest book
Products that can help to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of laying a road surface are available now, but too many highway authorities are still hesitant to try new technologies, says Tarmac’s national technical director, Brian Kent
Warm mix asphalts which are manufactured and laid at around 40 degrees less than traditional hot material have been performing well for many years, but still only represent around 5% of market share in the UK.
Two years ago, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Highways concluded that the use of warm mix asphalt can reduce CO2 emissions associated with asphalt production by as much as 15%.
The case for warm mix was strengthened in 2019 after the introduction of guidance for warm mix into the specification for highway works, which many local authorities follow.
But still, the quantities of lower temperature asphalts specified remain low.
It now needs senior industry and political support to champion materials such as warm mix asphalt if the UK’s transportation sector is to meet its 2050 carbon reduction target.
If warm mix became the default for asphalt specified across the country, then overnight, we could see around 70 or 80% of asphalt installed in this country being mixed and laid warm.
There is also a need for more collaboration between local authorities to allow a product deemed suitable in one area to be readily accepted in another. At the moment, some local authorities are happy to specify new materials, whereas others will only agree if they carry out trials and monitor its performance over five years or more.
Another highway development that is not being exploited as much as it could is for binder and surface courses to be replaced as one homogeneous material, rather than in separate passes. By laying single-layer materials, you make a considerable sustainability saving by reducing time on site and the associated operations.
A more recent introduction to our sustainable products portfolio is rubber modified asphalt, which incorporates recycled worn vehicle tyres into the carriageway.
The sector’s apparent reluctance to embrace innovative thinking is at odds with that of the public. Technology has always quickly been embraced by consumers, over a wide range of industries, including mobile phones and cars. But when it comes to our industry people can be reluctant to take on what they perceive as a risk. Historical or procurement barriers restrict innovation uptake in terms of what has been specified, with a lack of flexibility to change and embrace innovation.
While environmental awareness is growing in the sector, cost still appears to be the main driving factor behind product specification. However, just because a product is greener and can be slightly more expensive per tonne it does not mean that the whole life cost is more expensive – by reducing site operations and extending pavement life, costs can be reduced.
Brian Kent is National Technical Director at Tarmac. Tarmac is sponsoring the Civils and Materials Theatre at Highways UK at the NEC on 3/4 November 2021