National Infrastructure Commission welcomes government plans to tackle drought and leakage

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has welcomed moves by ministers to tackle water leakages and drought which will be set out in a draft National Policy Statement this week.

The Commission was responding to commitments set out in a speech by Environment Secretary Michael Gove yesterday at the launch of the UK Climate Impacts Report 2018 on the Government’s approach to storing and managing water.

The Minister told his audience that climate change would “manifest itself most acutely” in thehydrologic system, saying:

“The intense rainfall of the winter, the arid heat of the summer, and rising sea levels will be how we experience climate change most immediately in our everyday lives. “

While successive Governments have made good progress on mitigating flood risk, he continued, as the risk of flooding and coastal erosion increases, a new long-term approach is needed. The Government will publish a long term policy statement next year and the Environment Agency will issue a new 50-year strategy, also next year.

Commenting on droughts, Michael Gove said the UK’s high population density means the available water per person is actually less than in many Mediterranean countries. The experience of this summer, and the evidence of the projections, underscored the need to make water supplies more resilient to a warmer climate in the future, he added.

Via the Government’s twin-track approach, on the supply side, the UK needs to capture and store more rainwater and on the demand side, water must be conserved and used more efficiently.

Draft National Policy Statement on expediting construction of new infrastructure to be published this week

He went on to tell his audience that climate change, coupled with a rising population, will require new water supply infrastructure. However, in part because of company behaviour, in part because of regulatory barriers, the UK had not built any major new reservoirs since the water industry was privatised.

This week the Government will publish a new draft National Policy Statement on water resources which would include a target for water companies to halve leakages and how it will expedite the construction of new infrastructure, like water transfers and reservoirs to support areas suffering water shortages.

New target of halving water leakage by 2050

Michael Gove commented:

“Relying solely on new water infrastructure would prove expensive for bill payers and create pressures on the natural environment. So we will also tackle waste and excessive consumption of water. Since privatisation, leakage has fallen by a third. But we still lose three billion litres of water to leaks every day. That’s why I am setting water companies a stretching new target to halve leakage by 2050.”

The plans to improve the resilience of England’s water supply and set a clear target to halve water leakages by 2050 match a key recommendation by the National Infrastructure Commission – the NIC said such a move would ensure the country’s water supply system could better withstand droughts.

The Commission’s report, Preparing for a Drier Future considered how to make England’s water infrastructure resilient to droughts – something expected to be more frequent as a consequence of climate change.

Responding to the Environment Secretary’s speech, a spokesperson for the National Infrastructure Commission said:

“With climate change increasing drought risk England can’t afford to lose 3 billion litres of water every day, so we’re pleased to see Michael Gove endorsing our recommendations to halve leakages by 2050.

“We’re also pleased the National Policy Statement will make it easier to deliver new reservoirs and water transfers to increase the capacity of the system and support areas in greatest need.”

“These measures are an important step towards a more resilient water supply.”

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Saltash Tunnel gets hi-tech safety upgrade

State-of-the-art technology will be installed in the Saltash Tunnel over the coming months to ensure the safety of the thousands of people who use the underground route in Cornwall.

Highways England is starting a scheme next week to upgrade the incident detection system within the A38 tunnel, which will provide quicker and more reactive detection of vehicle fires and other incidents.

The scheme will see close to 5,000 metres of cable – equivalent to 415 double decker buses – installed inside the 410-metre long tunnel

New technology inside the 30-year-old tunnel will include Wayfinder emergency evacuation signs, and separate smoke and heat detection systems, all aligned to the Public Address system to direct drivers to the safest tunnel exit in the event of an incident.

The tunnel has a good safety history – a new PA and CCTV system was installed two years ago – and the new improvements will link into that to ensure drivers are alerted quicker and help Highways England and the emergency services to react quicker in responding to any potential incidents via the Tamar Bridge control room.

Once work is completed next year, Highways England plans to hold a joint emergency test exercise with the fire services and police.

Highways England spokesman Julian Strong said: “The current detection system is still operational but this essential upgrade is needed to meet current standards, and the work to integrate the different systems is innovative.

“This will enable automatic detection, without the risk of false alarms, and make the tunnel as safe as possible for all those who use it.

“The installation and connection of the cable is a complex procedure, the work will take place under overnight closures to minimise its impact on people, and we apologise in advance for any disruption.”

The £1.2 million scheme, financed from Highways England’s Innovation Fund, will start on Monday, 26 November and is scheduled to be completed in the spring. During that time, the tunnel will be closed on week nights from 8pm to 6am with a diversion route in place via the B3271.

There will be no closures during the Christmas period, 22 December to 6 January.

For more articles like this, please visit Highways Industry News website.

Millions of pounds set aside for road repairs in Staffordshire

Staffordshire will receive the largest chunk of a £43.5 million Government investment to fix potholes throughout the West Midlands, keeping drivers and cyclists safe this winter.

It was announced earlier this week that the Department for Transport will invest £43.5 million into road repairs across the West Midlands region.

And the biggest chunk of cash will be heading to Staffordshire, with a total of £8.9 million set aside to fix potholes and other highway problems across the county.

Roads Minister Jesse Norman said: “Potholes are a huge problem for all road users, and too often we see issues occurring at the same place time after time.

“That is why the government is investing more in improving our roads than at any time before – £15 billion between 2015 and 2020 and a further £28.8 billion to 2025, plus an immediate extra £420 million for potholes and local road maintenance just this year.

“The West Midlands will be getting an extra £43 million this winter to keep its roads in good condition to keep drivers and cyclists safe.”

Staffordshire County Council has confirmed the grant and money has now been allocated to local areas, although a breakdown of the funds has not been released.

Helen Fisher, who leads highways and transport at the council, said: “We welcome the additional funding for road repairs announced in the October budget which has now been allocated to each local authority area.

“This will support our ongoing programme of road maintenance across our large network which was boosted by our own additional £5 million investment this financial year.

“What we would like to see is more long-term sustained funding to help us plan our future road maintenance programme.”

Next year, the region will receive £110 million from the Local Highways Maintenance and Integrated Transport Block funds, which will go towards repairing roads and investing in safety, walking and cycling schemes.

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Nearly £10M to be spent on fixing potholes on Somerset roads

Nearly £10M will be spent fixing potholes in Somerset roads following a one-off windfall from central government.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond MP announced in his budget on October 29 that an extra £420M of new funding would be spent on improvements and repairs to Britain’s road network.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that the South West will see just under £72M of this funding.

Somerset County Council has not confirmed precisely how and where the money will be spent, but has called on the government for more long-term, stable funding for its transport network.

Announcing the funding, roads minister Jesse Norman MP said: “Potholes are a huge problem for all road users, and too often we see issues occurring at the same place time after time.

“That’s why we are investing more in improving our roads than at any time before – £15bn between 2015 and 2020 and a further £28.8 bn to 2025, plus an immediate extra £420M for potholes and local road maintenance just this year.

“The South West will be getting an extra £71m this winter to keep its roads in good condition to keep drivers and cyclists safe.”

Of the £71.917M Somerset will be able to spend £9.98M.

This is the third-highest allocation within the government’s funding pot, behind Devon (£18.754M) and Cornwall (£10.056M), and higher than the amounts for Gloucestershire (£7.905M), Wiltshire (£7.358M) and Dorset (£6.165M).

Councillor David Fothergill, leader of the council, said the funding was welcome but more work was needed to provide long-term sustainbility.

He said: “On the face of it, this is an increase on previous years which is good news for Somerset and a welcome boost to our road network.

“However, while one-off pots of money are always very gratefully received, we repeat our calls for a clearer, sustained model for highways funding which would allow us to plan our budgets more effectively in the long-term.”

The council has not yet confirmed how and where in the county it intends to spend the money.

For more articles like this, please visit Highways Industry News website.

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Highways England new gritters take to the road

A fleet of new look gritters, using state of the art technology are on the road this winter following a multi-million pound investment by Highways England.

The first delivery of the new gritters took place in October and will improve safety for drivers and workers due to the vehicles improved technology, ergonomics and enhanced visibility.

Despite being 26 tonnes and measuring a maximum of 2.5 meters wide, Highways England has seen a number of incidents where gritters have been struck by vehicles.

Research carried out by Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) shows that vehicles stand out more if painted in one block colour and are solid in shape which is where the new design has come from.

As well as a new design, the latest vehicles contain innovative technology which includes being able to pre-programme gritters with information specific to each gritting route. This enables salt to be spread onto the road automatically, taking into account any specific requirements for bridges, landscape and other road features allowing drivers to give their full attention to driving at all times.

Highways England’s winter fleet manager Jane Wilkins said:

“Safety is our top priority and we are always looking at ways we can improve our winter resilience. Using the research carried out by TRL and our own data, we have looked carefully at the number of incidents involving gritters to see what more can be done to improve safety and the service we provide.

“The roll out of this £30million programme started this year with 34 new vehicles in East Anglia. The remainder of the 157 vehicles, will be replaced over the next two years.”

Highways England is working closely with gritter manufacturers Romaquip on the roll out of the new fleet.

Romaquip technical director Stephen McKeown said:

“We are excited to be working with Highways England, manufacturing a new generation of winter vehicles with numerous safety and technical advances. It is a pleasure to work with an organisation that strives to develop and improve their service, actively partnering with us to achieve these goals.

“It is clear to see that the specification of these vehicles has been derived from consciously deciding to improve safety for both operators and other road users, and that the innovation to improve efficiency and functionality has also been thoroughly considered.

“Romaquip is committed to delivering the best quality machines to all of our customers, we welcome this improvement and look forward to working with Highways England over the years to come.”

Highways England currently has 535 winter vehicles patrolling the 4,400 miles of motorways and major A roads across the country.

For more articles like this, please visit Highways Industry News website.