Kent County Council invests £60 million in highway maintenance

Kent County Council is to invest £60 million into improving the county’s main roads.

The announcement came as the authority published its two-year plan of maintenance works.

It says it will double investment into road maintenance, treble footway maintenance, and will implement a crash barrier upgrade programme on main roads.

However, the works listed in its plan are subject to change and they will go through a design phase before being carried out.

Cabinet member for highways Mike Whiting said: “This investment shows our commitment to residents, businesses and visitors, ensuring we have a highway network that is fit for purpose.

“Our plans will see road surfacing works on many of our main roads, including parts of the A2, A26 and A28.

“The plan also covers work from road renewal, drainage improvements, crash barrier renewal, grass cutting and footpath repairs.”

KCC is responsible for maintaining all public roads in Kent – equating to about 5,000 miles.

Highways England is responsible for motorways and major roads such as the M20, M2 and A2.

North of England should act to avoid water shortages – report

A new report has said action to promote a sustainable approach to water resources is required to avoid the risk of shortages in northern England.

IPPR, a registered charity, published ‘Natural Assets North: Water in the Northern Powerhouse’ to highlight the role that water plays in the Northern Powerhouse economy, the degree to which the region is resilient to the impact of climate change and other trends on the supply of water, and implications for policymakers at a local, pan-northern and national level.

The report suggested that, while water stress is a bigger factor in south east England, action will be required to mitigate the risk of scarcity, which should include significant efforts to drive down consumption as well as cutting leakage.

Although United Utilities and Northumbrian Water expect to have sufficient supplies over the next 25 years, IPPR pointed out that Yorkshire Water has forecast that its main water resource zone will be in deficit relative to target headroom from 2035/36 onwards without intervention.

The report also warned that there is “considerable uncertainty” over forecasts and that the impacts of climate change could be more severe than expected.

“The compound effects of climate change and economic and population growth are introducing significant pressures on the water supply of the north of England,” it said. “Although much of the north – unlike parts of the south of England – is not considered water stressed, the region’s water security cannot be taken for granted.

“There are very limited opportunities to substantially increase the supply of water, for example by building new reservoirs, because of a lack of water availability, abstraction limitations, and the likely impact upon the natural environment.

“Instead, to ensure the region remains water resilient, we will have to make better use of our existing water supply, by managing demand, reducing leakage and encouraging greater water efficiency.

“The water companies have a statutory responsibility to supply water and should be held accountable to ensure that they can deliver the improvements in service that they are promising.

“However, because of the nature and scale of the issue, and the possible consequences of water scarcity, this cannot solely be the responsibility of the water industry alone – instead all agencies have a role to play in helping to mitigate the risks and maximise the opportunities for the future.”

It added: “Policymakers across the whole region need to be aware of and take action against these pressures, in collaboration with those with statutory responsibilities for the water supply, to minimise and manage the future risks to the North’s economy, its population and its natural environment.”

Yorkshire Water is targeting a 25 per cent reduction in leakage over the course of AMP7, while United Utilities has a 20 per cent target and Northumbrian Water’s is 15 per cent.

Adrian Thompson, managing director of pipeline specialists Ant Hire Solutions, told WWT: “The UK’s water network is facing unprecedented challenges in the face of climate change, ever-increasing demand due to population growth, and leakage from existing and new pipes entering the network.

“Some 3.2 billion litres of water are lost through leakage every single day. However, this can be dramatically reduced and we are increasingly seeing water utilities adopting more innovative, technologically advanced tools and techniques to capture and analyse data in order to identify problem pipes and take control of leakage.”

Murphy and SES Water use innovative leak detection technology to save water, time and money

A new innovative leak detection technology has saved money for customers and avoided the need for a new water pipe.

J. Murphy & Sons Ltd used an innovative solution called SmartBall® on a project in Surrey, to survey an existing water main for SES Water. The Murphy team worked closely with the Water Research Centre, Pure Technologies (a Xylem company) and the client, SES Water.

After using SmartBall® – a rolling pipe inspection tool that uses acoustic and magnetic sensors to locate leaks and features in pipe mains – the initial results showed that the capacity of the pipeline could be increased without the need to install a new 2.5km long water pipe at a cost of £2.7 million.

Simon Thomson, Project Manager, SES Water commented:

“Innovation is vital for us and a key part of our strategy in the future. It’s about using our assets smarter and keeping costs down for customers. This was a great collaborative effort across all four companies to do just that.”

Murphy Project Manager, Kevin Mullan said that innovation with supply chain partners is one of the key driving points at Murphy.

“We are always looking for the best ideas, technologies and partners to work with to deliver the best solutions for our clients. We were aware of the challenges we would face by building a new water pipe through third party land, so we looked hard for an alternative solution.”

Before building the new water main, Murphy inspected the integrity of the existing pipes with Smartball® and found historic issues with gaskets in the joints that weren’t as significant as believed.

This meant localised repairs could be made to the network at a significant saving to SES Water.

Keith Walker, Head of Infrastructure at WRc, which helped Murphy survey the pipeline using the SmartBall® technology, said the solution was likely to result in a no-build solution to improving water sustainability for SES customers.

Initial results from the survey have suggested there are no significant problems with the integrity of the two pipelines, but further analysis of the data collected will take place over the next couple of weeks to provide detailed results. The data will be used to identify any rehabilitation required before the pipelines are re-purposed for use as pumping mains rather than gravity distribution pipelines.


Main work for £5 million A585 junction transformation to start

Highways England’s £5 million project to transform Norcross roundabout – one of the busiest junctions along the A585 in Lancashire – will hit top gear from Saturday (31 August).

And to help businesses, residents, commuters and other road users stay in touch with progress on the improvement and the different phases of roadworks, a text alert system and weekly public drop-in sessions have been launched.

The £5 million investment started in July with preparation work. Now the first phase of main construction work is starting – on Saturday – with the closure of the junction at Fleetwood Road South, south of the roundabout, for about six weeks.

The major improvement to the five ‘arm’ roundabout involves putting traffic lights at the roundabout to improve crossings and providing more room on the approaches to the junction – making journeys safer, smoother and fairer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Highways England project manager Jan De Jong said:

“We’re now entering the main, seven month, construction phase and we are doing everything we can to minimise disruption. People used to accessing the junction from the southern section of Fleetwood Road South should use the official diversion route over the next few weeks.

“We are really keen to keep people informed and encourage road users to sign up to the text alert system, visit the project webpage or come and talk to us at one of our weekly drop-in sessions at Thornton Methodist Church.”

The closure of the southern section of Fleetwood Road South will last until Monday 16 October with a second short closure required near the end of the project between Tuesday 3 and Friday 6 March.  The other phases of work involve:

  • Closing Fleetwood Road South (northern section) between Monday 21 October and Friday 13 December and again between Monday 24 February and Wednesday 26 February
  • Closing Norcross Lane between Monday 13 January and Friday 21 February and again between Thursday 27 February and Monday 2 March
  • Completing the project with work in the new roundabout’s centre island – with no road closures – between Thursday 5 March and Tuesday 31 March.

A new newsletter gives full details of the phases of work and other information

All the closures will be in place around the clock throughout the working periods but the A585 itself will remain open at all times.

The weekly drop-in sessions at Thornton Methodist Church will be held between 10am and 12 noon every Friday.

Anyone wishing to sign up to the free text alert system should send a text message from their device with the message A585 Norcross to 07860 048846.  Terms and conditions for the service are explained in a new scheme leaflet which has been delivered to houses in the Norcross area.  This is also available at local libraries and post offices and Thornton Methodist Church.  The leaflet, which diversion route maps, can also be viewed online at the project webpage on  Regular project updates by email are also available via the project webpage.

The scheme is funded from a national £220 million congestion relief programme to tackle traffic ‘hotspots’, with more than £27 million being spent in the North West. As well as the project at Norcross roundabout other work includes:

  • a £1 million project to improve the A595 and A66 Fitz roundabout near Cockermouth in Cumbria
  • £1.6 million for widening the A595 and A66 junction at Great Clifton near Workington
  • £800,000 to improve the roundabout traffic lights where the A585 meets the M55 at junction 3 just outside Blackpool
  • £21 million for smaller-scale improvements across the North West

Once the new Norcross roundabout has opened, work can then begin on a £100 million new A585 bypass between Windy Harbour and Skippool.

Safer barriers installed in motorway upgrade

The final phase of work to install new, safer central reservation barriers along a stretch of the M6 is set to begin as part of an upgrade of the motorway.

The steel central reservation is being replaced with new concrete safety barriers along 17 miles of the motorway in Staffordshire which is being upgraded to increase capacity and introduce the latest technology.

Concrete barriers are safer for motorists as they help prevent ‘cross-over’ accidents when vehicles go onto the opposite carriageway and also, therefore, mean fewer lane closures for repairs.

They are replacing steel barriers between junctions 13 (Stafford) and 15 (Stoke) as part of the ongoing upgrade which will see the hard shoulder turned into an extra traffic lane to help keep traffic flowing more smoothly and ensure more reliable journeys.

Work to install the concrete central reservation barriers between junctions 15 and 14 was completed in June.

In early May teams started to dismantle the steel barrier, excavate the centre of the motorway and install additional drainage between junctions 14 and 13. Now work can begin installing the concrete barrier along this second phase.

As part of the work a number of overnight closures will be required between junctions 13 to 14 on the following dates and times:

  • From Wednesday 28 August to Sunday 1 September (southbound only) 9pm to 6am
  • From Friday 6 September to Tuesday 10 September (northbound only) 9pm to 6am

Diversions along the a449 and Stone Road will be clearly signposted.

In addition, the M6 will also need to be closed for a number of nights between junctions 12 to 13 to give the construction team access to the central reservation at junction 13.

The closures between junctions 12 and 13 will take place:

  • From Monday 2 September to Thursday 5 September (southbound only) 9pm to 6am
  • From Wednesday 11 September to Thursday 12 September (northbound only) 9pm to 6am

During the closure, the A449 will be used as a temporary diversion route.

Highways England Smart Motorway Project Sponsor Peter Smith said:

“Installing the concrete central reservation barriers is an important part of this motorway upgrade which will ultimately improve journeys for people using this road as well as giving drivers better information to help with their journeys while maintaining high levels of safety.

“We only close the motorway when absolutely necessary and do so overnight when we know there are fewer cars and it is safer to do so.

“However, we do understand that the diversions may cause some disturbance for people living near those routes and appreciate their patience while this important work takes place.”

The resurfacing and fitting the new barrier should be completed along this stretch by early 2020.

Hundreds of trees planted in £500k pilot to trial natural flood management

Hundreds of trees have been planted as part of the first project to trial natural flood management techniques to help improve protection for the people of Leeds and living near the River Aire

The pilot site on a working farm at Eshton Beck, Gargrave now has 650 new trees planted by staff and trainees from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and volunteers.

The aim is to see how natural techniques can slow the flow of water and reduce the risk of flooding downstream.

The natural flood management pilot forms part of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, led by Leeds City Council in partnership with the Environment Agency, which has a catchment wide approach to flood risk as it enters its second stage.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has also worked on three further pilots on the same site, with a whole host of volunteers from the Environment Agency, Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Water, The Conservation Volunteers, Craven Conservation Group and SCAPA, a firm based in Gargrave.

They were also helped by students and staff from Leeds University and NVQ trainees from Craven College. The flood alleviation work involved building 66 log and brash leaky dams, planting a further 850 trees, undertaking 0.5ha of woodland management, building a 20m-long log revetment – using timber to prevent bank erosion and installing 200m of fenceline and a water gate to protect the new trees from nearby grazing stock.

The trees include dogwood, guelder rose, downy birch, alder, and willow which will be planted along with hedgerows of hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel. Other measures carried out at part of the project include fencing works, creating leaky barriers and woody dams and stabilising river banks.

The £500,000 pilot programme, funded by Leeds City Council, uses natural methods to slow the flow of water from upstream in the catchment. This includes land management to reduce water run-off, woodland creation to increase tree canopy cover and river and flood plain restoration so that the landscape can hold more water in times of flood.

The pilot sites will allow the team to monitor and research the techniques used to gather evidence and increase their understanding of the benefits they provide for reducing flood risk. The pilot programme will also be used by the Environment Agency and Leeds City Council to develop a co-design approach to working with landowners, tenants, local authorities and other key partners such as the Aire Rivers Trust and the White Rose Forest. This will help to develop future plans for the catchment.

Working with natural processes to reduce flood risk – known as natural flood management (nfm) – is an important part of managing and reducing flood risk in a sustainable way alongside more traditional engineering solutions.

The second phase of Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme has a strong focus on natural flood management, with proposals to create new woodland areas which would more than double canopy coverage in the River Aire catchment. It focuses on protecting the Kirkstall corridor, which was badly hit by the 2015 Christmas floods, and areas beyond the city boundary to further reduce the possibility of the river flooding in Leeds.

Chris Milburn, Project Executive at the Environment Agency said:

“This work at Eston Beck contributes to local flood risk reduction and wider environmental benefits, slowing the flow of water locally and to downstream communities.”

Network Rail reveals detailed £2.9bn upgrade plans for TransPennine route

Major station upgrades and plans to rebuild and electrify an 8-mile stretch of track have been put forward by Network Rail as part of a public consultation on a major upgrade to the TransPennine route.

The plans form part of the £2.9bn TransPennine Upgrade programme which will ultimately aim to deliver a more reliable railway with more seats, more trains and faster services between Manchester, York, Huddersfield and Leeds.

Network Rail has also suggested doubling the number of tracks from two to four, and proposed a ‘grade separation’ such as a bridge or tunnel at Ravensthorpe.

The public consultation will ask for feedback on the upgrades to the eight-mile section between Huddersfield and Westtown (Dewsbury) from the community and businesses in Kirklees, West Yorkshire.

Kieran Dunkin, principal programme sponsor at Network Rail, said: “The TransPennine Upgrade will deliver the benefits passengers want from their railway with more reliability, more trains and more seats, and shorter journey times.

“The eagerly anticipated upgrade of the TransPennine Route is approaching the final stages of development, and asking passengers and our neighbours for their feedback on our plans for the section between Huddersfield and Westtown is a significant and important next step in that development process.”

Under the proposed plans, the stations at Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe will be revamped and major overhaul land electrification work will be carried out.

The first phase of consultation will close in late-October, and once the feedback has been considered the second phase will see a further round of consultation on any changes made.

The feedback given via the consultation will help form part of the Transport and Works Act Order submission that Network Rail will make to the transport secretary in autumn 2020.

Google prefers cookies to fingerprints

Internet giant Google has announced some measures designed to better protect the privacy of users of its Chrome browser.

Under the heading of ‘Privacy Sandbox’ Google wants to develop a set of open privacy standards. At the core of this initiative is the use of cookies, which are bits of software that track people’s online activity and, so the theory goes, serve them more relevant advertising. Google concedes that some use of cookies doesn’t meet acceptable data privacy standards, but that blocking them isn’t the answer.

A major reason for this is that it encourages the use of another tracking technique called fingerprinting. This aggregates a bunch of other user preferences and behaviours to generate a unique identifier that performs a similar function to cookies. The problem with fingerprints, however, is that there’s no user control over them and hence they’re bad for data privacy.

Since the digital ad market now expects a considerable degree of targeting, but fingerprinting is considered an unacceptable solution to the blocking of cookies, Google wants to come up with a better one that will be implemented across all browsers, hence this initiative. The Privacy Sandbox is a secure environment designed to enable safe experimentation with other personalization technologies.

“We are following the web standards process and seeking industry feedback on our initial ideas for the Privacy Sandbox,” blogged Justin Schuh Director of Chrome Engineering at Google. “While Chrome can take action quickly in some areas (for instance, restrictions on fingerprinting) developing web standards is a complex process, and we know from experience that ecosystem changes of this scope take time. They require significant thought, debate, and input from many stakeholders, and generally take multiple years.”

While this is all laudable it should be noted that Google has possibly the greatest vested interest in optimising targeted advertising online. While that makes it perfectly understandable that it would want to take the initiative in standardizing the way it’s done, other big advertisers and browser providers may have reservations about surrendering much control of the process to Google.

Government announces HS2 review, ‘go or no-go’ decision by year-end

The government is set to launch a review into the HS2 project, transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

The review into the high-speed rail link will conclude a “go or no-go” decision by the end of the year, confirming, reworking or cancelling whether and how the project will go ahead. Mr Shapps has refused to rule out scrapping the project entirely.

Costs and benefits of the route, connecting London, the Midlands and northern England will be looked at in the review.

Mr Shapps said the government was “responsible” for seeing if HS2 was “going to stack up”.

Under its current plan, the first segment of HS2 between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026, with the second phase of the development to Leeds and Manchester scheduled for completion by 2032-33.

An estimated £7bn has already been spent on the project. However, Mr Shapps was clear in stating that, just because investment had already been made in the project, a review was the sensible approach rather than “ploughing more and more money into it”.

The review is set to be chaired by Douglas Oakervee, a civil engineer who served as chairman of the Crossrail project between 2005 and 2009. Another civil engineer, Lord Berkeley, who also worked on the construction of the Channel Tunnel, will act as his deputy.

A final report is expected to be sent to the government in autumn.

LG doubles-down on gaming and entertainment with K-Series launch

With IFA just around the corner, it would be fair to assume a tsunami of consumer devices launches are on the horizon, and here, LG has kicked-off its own efforts.

The mid-range K50S and K40S smartphones will be available for consumers in Europe, LATAM and Asia to purchase in October, and it appears LG is continuing its quest to find a niche in the gaming and entertainment world.

“These new K series devices offer an optimized multimedia experience that are competitive with the best smartphones in the price range,” said Morris Lee, SVP of mobile communications at LG. “With enhanced screens and more versatile cameras, the K50S and K40S represent exceptional value that demonstrate LG’s commitment to putting consumers’ needs first.”

The devices themselves bring larger screens than previous models, 6.5-inch for K50S and 6.1-inch for K40S, as well as a shift in the placement of the front-facing camera to maximise real-estate. New audio components have been introduced with DTS:X 3D Surround Sound, while a 4,000mAh battery for the K50S and 3,500mAh for K40S will offer extended usage. Both devices run on the latest Android OS, Pie.

Looking at the chipset, both models will incorporate 2.0 GHz Octa-Core, promised to enable smartphones to carry out more advanced tasks such as handling high resolution videos and graphic-heavy games without draining the battery, making the devices capable and efficient.

Gaining attention from today’s consumer can be a tricky task, and while other manufacturers largely seem to be focusing on narcissism with advanced cameras and AR features, LG appears to be focusing more acutely on gaming and the consumption of content.

We have already been treated to this strategy at EEs 5G launch back in May, when Head of LG Mobile UK Andrew Coughlin showed us the 5G prototype device. The product has been designed with multi-taskers in mind, with the option to clip the smartphone into a separate model, adding a second screen. The screens work independently, allowing for two applications to be run simultaneously, or potentially together with the bottom screen acting as a controller for games.

This is strategy which appears to be spread throughout the portfolio, and it is a smart idea.

Gaming is one of the fastest growing markets in the digital economy, and with the emergence of more cloud gaming platforms such as Google Stadia or Nvidia GeForce NOW, accessibility will also increase. A recent report from PwC suggests the German gaming market will grow by 5.2% a year between 2019 and 2023, though this seems to be moderate growth in comparison to other markets.

Research from GlobalData suggested the globally the video games market generated $131 billion, though this could increase to $300 billion by 2025. The surge in growth will be led by smartphone gaming, though as the newly emerging cloud gaming platforms are somewhat of an unknown entity, who knows what the actual figure will be.

On the entertainment front, there is no secret consumers like to watch content on their smartphones, but again, this is becoming increasingly accessible thanks to larger data tariffs and improved wifi in public spaces.

LG will have to do a lot to cut through the noise considering the massive marketing budgets of its rivals but craving a niche in the gaming and entertainment arena is certainly a smart move.