Leader of Rotherham Council and Mayor of Doncaster ask Government to re-think HS2

Leader of Rotherham Council, Chris Read and Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, have shared concerns with Douglas Oakervee, the man behind the HS2 review.

They have restated their position to go back to the original Meadowhall option or fundamentally reconsider the eastern leg. They have presented an 11-page overview along with a cover letter outlining the reasons for their alarm.

The two leaders have been deeply concerned at the recent announcement of rising costs and extended timescales for completing HS2. The pair are specifically opposed to the current plans for Phase 2B from the West Midlands to Leeds, fearing fewer trains and seats, environmental impact, inferior connectivity and major residential demolition.

Initial plans did not indicate the number of properties that would be demolished to see this plan go ahead – a huge disappointment for the residents and communities who could face severe impacts on their landscape.

Rising costs could also mean HS2 would compromise environmental protections and minimum mitigations. It could also jeopardise other rail investment programmes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and vital local upgrades.

Mayor Ros Jones said:

“Delivering HS2 must not come at the expense of other vital rail investment in the north or measures to protect communities. That would be a betrayal of our region and the Government’s commitment to rebalance the national economy. We are set to see mass demolitions to have HS2 pass through our region with negligible beneficial impact for our residents, communities and economy. It’s all pain and no gain.

“Passengers and services in our region are suffering now. We can’t wait another 20 years to deliver much needed rail improvements. We need to go back to the Meadowhall option or seriously look at the planned eastern leg.”

Councillor Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said:

 “The current HS2 proposal offers little or no economic benefit to the Rotherham borough and its businesses. We need either a Meadowhall stop or we call on the Government to scrap the development all together rather than build it in a way that will cause years of disruption at massive cost, and instead reallocate the savings to fund essential improvements to regional rail connectivity through the Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

The call comes amid the latest train performance figures, which show that over the last 12 weeks, less than half of trains at Doncaster and Rotherham Stations were on time, 45% and 41% respectively.


Safer journeys for cyclists and pedestrians thanks to Highways England scheme

Work will be carried out improving the footpath and cycle route near to junction 10 of the M6 to ensure the safety of local people and provide an alternative route when major works get under way on the Walsall roundabout.

Local people and businesses are invited to a public information event on Friday 11 October to find out more about the new Connecting Bentley route. This will bring improvements for pedestrians and cyclists along Bloxwich Lane, Churchill Road and Queen Elizabeth Avenue, creating an improved continuous link to the north of M6 junction 10.

The work will be carried out thanks to a ring-fenced fund provided by Highways England to address issues beyond the traditional roads investment.

Designated Funds are allocated to schemes that improve the surroundings of the Highways England road network and benefit those who live and work alongside it.

When the main construction works for the £78 million upgrade of junction 10 are under way, access for pedestrians and cyclists will be restricted in the area and an alternative route will be needed.

The upgrade of the junction will ease congestion at the notorious bottleneck in Walsall and is due to start in the new year. The bridges over the motorway are to be replaced, increasing the junction to four lanes, and avoiding the need for extensive maintenance as it is now over 50 years old.

This is a joint venture between Highways England and Walsall Council, supported by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.

The improvements being carried out as part of the new Connecting Bentley route include:

  • Footpath widening – improving access for people with pushchairs and wheelchair users as well as creating additional capacity to accommodate cyclists.
  • Pedestrian crossings – the installation of new LED Belisha beacons which improve safety by providing increased illumination during bright sunny days and reduced glare at night through automatic light dimming. Also high friction surfacing on the approach to crossings which reduces skidding.
  • School safety – the existing ‘School Zone’ on Churchill Road will be upgraded to allow for new interactive signage which will illuminate during school hours warning drivers of the presence of pupils.
  • Improvements to existing street lighting – we will install LED lights which last longer and use less energy as well as bringing improved visibility. Installation of LED street lighting has proved successful in reducing crime rates.

The scheme will link in with the existing cycle route on Churchill Road and the cycle improvement measures installed as part of a recent Local Safety Scheme on Bloxwich Lane.

The work, which starts on Saturday 26 October, will involve some temporary traffic lights and lane closures to enable the upgrade to be carried out safely. It should be completed by the end of March 2020.

More information is available at the public information event taking place on Friday 11 October between 2pm and 6pm outside the shops in the Bentley Public Realm area.

Highways England Project Manager David Reed said:

We understand that major schemes such as the much-needed upgrade of junction 10 can cause disruption for local communities and we appreciate people’s patience.

Our designated funds enable us to provide environmental, social and economic benefits to the people, communities and businesses who live and work alongside our strategic road network.

This particular project will improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and schoolchildren in the area not only during the junction 10 works but beyond.

Deputy Leader of Walsall Council Adrian Andrew said:

The improvements to junction 10 will transform journeys for residents and commercial traffic. These additional improvements bring benefits to the wider community providing a safer environment for cyclists and schoolchildren alike.

Uber app gets a major overhaul

Ride sharing giant Uber has emphasised its diversification and desire to play nice with the broader market in a major new version of its app.

Somewhat ambitiously positioned as ‘an operating system for everyday life’, the new app elevates Uber Eats to have equal billing with the Rides service. Uber Eats offers a takeaway service for places that don’t do such a thing themselves, such as most fast food providers. It’s the other main way freelance drivers can earn money through Uber.

On top of that there’s fairly significant new security feature called Verify Your Ride, which provides the passenger with a special number, that the driver needs to input before the journey can begin. This seems to be designed to address concerns about rogue drivers masquerading as Uber ones and the obvious security risk that poses.

The other major change is the addition of a bunch of non-Uber travel information, such as public transport, to search results. This counterintuitive move has presumably been made to placate regulators and anyone else hostile to the Uber business model, by indicating Uber’s willingness to play nice with broader society and not abuse its dominant position in the ad hoc transport sector.

“We recognize that becoming an integral part of people’s lives comes with real responsibility,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in the associated announcement. “That’s why we are working to make sure every customer is treated like a VIP, every driver and courier feels like a valued partner, and every city feels like we’re a good citizen. With that in mind, today we also announced a number of innovative features and new partnerships.”

Right now you can be treated like a VIP for just $25 per month through Ride Pass, which offers discounts. That is now being extended to Eats in the form of Uber Pass, which also grants ‘free’ deliveries. There’s also Uber Rewards, which rewards you with little treats if you use Uber enough. Uber is looking to diversify on the back of its strong position, while at the same time taking measures to mitigate that dominance, which is sensible.


New rail testing scheme launched for small businesses

Businesses in the West Midlands are being offered subsidised access to test and trial facilities as a way to boost railway innovation.

The University of Birmingham has joined forces with Quinton Rail Technology Centre (QRTC) to offer access to the UK’s only privately owned and independent outdoor rail testing and trialling site.

In order to be eligible, companies need to have signed up to the DIGI-RAIL programme run by the University of Birmingham. The free programme specialises in assisting local small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in their product development and rail sector services.

The part-funded project aims to solve challenges within the railway sector and access the opportunities that exist within the industry in the UK and internationally.

Al-Amin Dabo, business development manager for DIGI-RAIL at the University of Birmingham said:

“This is an important initiative that will really help local businesses to take their products to the next stage and bring them ever closer to market application. We are committed to supporting SMEs in rail and we are delighted that QRTC is working with us to help create new opportunities in the supply chain.”

“We encourage local SMEs who have an interest in the rail sector to contact us to discuss how DIGI-RAIL may be able to support their business going forward.

QRTC, based in Warwickshire, has the only looped test track in the UK and is used for reliability, mileage accumulation testing and trialling as well as product development.

Colin Flack, director of QRTC, said:

“We are very proud of the fact that our work over the years to develop the testing and trials facilities has led to some ground-breaking products being developed particularly by SMEs that otherwise would not have seen the light of day. We are delighted to be partnering with University of Birmingham again and we look forward to helping make ideas a reality.”


Yorkshire Water awards £1bn civils framework

Yorkshire Water has awarded a £1 billion civils framework for 2020-2025, covering the full range of civil engineering requirements across its clean and wastewater assets.

In total, 18 partners have been appointed after a 12-month procurement process.

The five-year frameworks come with an optional extension of up to three years, covering design and build projects, renewal and replacement of assets, and specialist works.

Mark Baker, head of programme delivery at Yorkshire Water, said: “We are excited to see the conclusion of this process and welcome our partners to support our ambitions and challenges into AMP7.

“They will assist in the formation of a truly collaborative, innovative and efficient delivery vehicle to help meet our Enterprise delivery model aspirations. The alignment of our objectives and a Programme First approach is a new direction for Yorkshire Water and we are confident that our partners can support this ambition.”

Amey is among the successful companies, extending a relationship with Yorkshire Water that has lasted close to a decade.

David McLoughlin, managing director for Amey Utilities, said: “We are delighted that Yorkshire Water has decided to continue our partnership together. Amey makes over 30,000km of new clean water connections and completes 200,000 successful repair and maintenance jobs every year, and we’re excited to apply our expertise to the challenges that lie ahead for Yorkshire Water.

“The next investment cycle is expected to raise a variety of issues for the water industry. This includes population growth increasing the demand for water, on infrastructure that needs updating, along with the need for innovative problem solving, as the importance of looking after the environment increases. We look forward to supporting Yorkshire Water over the next five years in tackling these problems whilst delivering an excellent service to customers.”

The joint venture between Barhale and Doosan Enpure has also secured places on the framework. Activity under the awards will include infrastructure construction, refurbishment, renewal and replacement works.

Dave Shaw, regional director at Barhale, said: “We are really pleased to have been appointed by Yorkshire Water. This is a great opportunity to work alongside Yorkshire Water to deliver an exciting programme of works set out for the next five years and we look forward to building on our existing relationship as we help in its delivery.”

Barry McNicholas, group managing director at Kier Utilities, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded a place on the Yorkshire Water framework particularly as this is a new client for Kier Utilities.

“This award builds on our recent award on the five-year Severn Trent framework, a client where we have a long partnership. Such awards provide visibility and stability to our order book and with the AMP7 well underway, we anticipate further awards in the coming months.”

Complex Civils: Design, build and refurbishment of treatment assets including reservoirs and pumping stations

Partners appointed: Barhale Ltd & Doosan Enpure Ltd, Eric Wright Water Ltd, Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd, Interserve Construction Ltd, Kier Integrated Services Ltd, Mott MacDonald Bentley Ltd and Peter Duffy Ltd.

Minor Civils Lot 1: New build and upgrading works to treatment assets with limited design

Partners appointed: Amey Utility Services Ltd, Barhale Ltd, Clugston Construction Ltd, Interserve Construction Ltd, JN Bentley Ltd, Morrison Utility Services, Peter Duffy Ltd and Seymour Ltd.

Minor Civils Lot 2: Specialist works to water retaining structures

Partners appointed: nmcn PLC, Seymour Ltd and Stonbury Ltd.


How Do Weather Events Impact Roads?

Statistics reveal that on average, 22% of all UK road accidents are caused by bad weather.

It’s vital to be aware of how bad weather affects you. The vast majority of most weather-related crashes happen on wet asphalt and during rainfall: 70% on wet asphalt and 30% of those during rainfall. A much smaller percentage of weather-related crashes occur during winter conditions: 18% during snow or sleet, 13% occur on icy pavement and 16% of weather-related crashes take place on snowy or slushy asphalt. Only 3% happen in the presence of fog

Road Weather Variables Roadway Impacts Traffic Flow Impacts Operational Impacts
Air Temp & Humidity N/A N/A • Road treatment strategy (e.g., snow and ice control)
• Construction planning (e.g., paving and striping)
Wind Speed • Visibility distance (due to blowing snow, dust)
• Lane obstruction (due to wind-blown snow, debris)
• Traffic speed
• Travel time delay
• Accident risk
• Vehicle performance (e.g., stability)
• Access control (e.g., restrict vehicle type, close road)
• Road closure decision support
Precipitation • Visibility distance
• Asphalt friction
• Lane obstruction
• Roadway capacity
• Traffic speed
• Travel time delay
• Accident risk
• Vehicle performance (e.g., traction)
• Driver capabilities/behavior
• Road treatment strategy
• Traffic signal timing
• Speed limit control
• Road closure decision support
• Institutional coordination
Fog • Visibility distance • Traffic speed
• Speed Variance
• Travel time delay
• Accident risk
• Driver capabilities/behavior
• Road treatment strategy
• Access control
• Speed limit control
Asphalt Temp • Infrastructure Damage N/A • Road treatment strategy
Asphalt condition • Asphalt friction
• Infrastructure damage
• Roadway capacity
• Traffic speed
• Travel time delay
• Accident risk
• Vehicle performance
• Driver capabilities/behavior (e.g., route choice)
• Road treatment strategy
• Traffic signal timing
• Speed limit control
Water level • Lane submersion • Traffic speed
• Travel time delay
• Accident risk
• Access control
• Road closure decision support
• Institutional coordination


Weather Impacts on Mobility

Capacity reductions can be caused by lane submersion due to flooding and by lane obstruction due to snow accumulation and wind-blown debris. Road closures and access restrictions due to hazardous conditions (e.g., large lorries in high winds) also decrease roadway capacity.

Weather events can reduce urban mobility and reduce the effectiveness of traffic signal timing plans. On urban routes, speed reductions can range from 10 to 25 percent on wet asphalt and from 30 to 40 percent with snowy or slushy asphalt. Average urban traffic volumes can decrease by 15 to 30 percent depending on road weather conditions and time of day. Saturation flow rate reductions can range from 2 to 21 percent. Travel time delay on urban routes can increase by 11 to 50 percent and start-up delay can increase by 5 to 50 percent depending on the severity of the weather event.

On motorways, light rain or snow can reduce average speed by 3 to 13 percent. Heavy rain can decrease average speed by 3 to 16 percent. In heavy snow, average motorway speeds can decline by 5 to 40 percent. Low visibility can cause speed reductions of 10 to 12 percent. Free-flow speed can be reduced by 2 to 13 percent in light rain and by 6 to 17 percent in heavy rain. Snow can cause free-flow speed to decrease by 5 to 64 percent. Speed variance can fall by 25 percent during rain. Light rain can decrease motorway capacity by 4 to 11 percent and heavy rain can cause capacity reductions of 10 to 30 percent. Capacity can be reduced by 12 to 27 percent in heavy snow and by 12 percent in low visibility. Light snow can decrease flow rates by 5 to 10 percent. Maximum flow rates can decline by 14 percent in heavy rain and by 30 to 44 percent in heavy snow.

Next year is when 5G will start to get really interesting

At a 5G/IoT day in San Diego, mobile chip giant Qualcomm outlined the current state of play with 5G and what we can expect from it in the near future.

As has been well documented, the telecoms industry got its act together a year earlier than was originally anticipated on 5G, thanks in part to using a non-standalone version as a stepping stone. This enabled the enhanced mobile broadband aspect of 5G to be introduced nice and quickly, but more novel features such as ultra-reliable, low-latency and network slicing require the full-fat, standalone version of 5G.

That will be fully standardised with release 16, which is scheduled to be rubber-stamped by the 3GPP in the middle of next year. That will open the door for things like autonomous vehicles, smart factories, mobile VR and all sorts other wireless exotica, which in turn should open up all these exciting new commercial use-cases and revenue streams 5G has long been promising.

We were able to chat to Durga Malladi, who is the 5G GM at Qualcomm, and he was quick to push back on our characterisation of eMBB as the relatively boring side of 5G. His phone was set up with Verizon 5G and he did a live speed test which yielded a download speed of 1.8 Gbps. That’s pretty impressive and, while we’re not sure where the immediate need is for such mobile bandwidth, the tech industry always seems to find a use for it.

Smart factories are something Qualcomm is especially keen to bring attention to as a validating use-case for 5G. Using unlicensed spectrum, a factory could be set up with its own private network, with a guaranteed level of ultra-reliability, that will enable all the machines and people to constantly wirelessly communicate with each other. That in turn could enable new levels of orchestration and efficiency.

A lot of the day involved Qualcomm talking up its own contribution to the progress of 5G, which is fair enough and it wouldn’t be Qualcomm if it didn’t. The company is right in the middle of all this stuff, however, so it does know what it’s talking about, and it used the event to prepare the assembled media and analysts to prepare for a big 5G year next year.


Yorkshire Water helps improve farm soil health

More than 250 farms in Yorkshire, covering nearly 10 per cent of the region’s arable land, have seen an improvement in soil health as the result of farming programmes led by Yorkshire Water and food supply chain consultant Future Food Solutions.

The degradation and erosion of topsoil used for farming is a major global issue, as less soil means less carbon locked in the land, which accelerates climate change.

In response, a ‘Sustainable Landscapes’ programme has been created that is working with a number of Yorkshire farms to help increase soil organic matter to make farmland more sustainable and resilient to future climate demands.

A key element of the initiative is to encourage farmers to use fewer pesticide slug pellets, which if used prior to major weather events can impact negatively on river water quality, treatment and supply.

Best-practice agricultural techniques are also being shared with farmers, such as the planting of cover crops, which helps keep soil in the fields and not washed into nearby rivers during heavy rainfall.

This will help tackle the problem of more than 23,000 tonnes of agricultural soil being recovered from Yorkshire Water’s water treatment works on the River Derwent and Ouse each year.

Andrew Walker, catchment strategy manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “One of the key benefits that has come from our work in the uplands was the ‘Land Management guide for Upland areas’.

“Based on the success of that guide, we, as part of the Sustainable Landscapes programme, are launching a Good Soil Guide, which is a practical reference source for farmers to use in the field to inform their understanding of soil health.”

The initiative will also benefit the food supply chain in the UK as a whole by improving the long-term sustainability of farm businesses engaged in the scheme by helping them to reduce inputs such as fertilisers, increase their profits and invest in further efficiency measures in the future.

Richard Bramley, who farms at Kelfield, south of York, and is an active member of the Sustainable Landscapes programme, said: “For British agriculture to face the challenges of the future, we need to do more to strengthen relationships and build confidence in the food supply chain.

“Collaborative initiatives like this help farmers to share ideas and access support from industry-leading experts such as Neil Fuller, the soil scientist who is pivotal to the creation of the Good Soil Guide.”

Steve Cann, director at Future Food Solutions, said: “We have been working with progressive farmers for the last five years, and now the Sustainable Landscapes programme, with the support of Yorkshire Water, has allowed us to concentrate our focus on soil health.

“From an agricultural perspective, improving our performance in this area will be crucial. Building soil carbon and reducing the knock-on effect of climate change will be a key role for the UK farming sector in the future.”


£435m major road deals awarded to Galliford Try

Galliford Try has signed contracts worth £435m to deliver two major road upgrades on the A47 around Norwich and Peterborough and along the A303 corridor in Somerset.

The £300m A47 contract and £135m A303 Sparkford to Ilchester deal are the biggest contracts awarded under the framework since it was announced last year.

Peter Mumford, Highways England Major Projects Executive Director, said: “This is clear evidence that new ways of working are being embraced by the market, which is now seizing the opportunity to work in a more integrated way with us, representing a fundamental change in the way we deliver our road projects.

“We will continue to work with the supply chain and look forward to completing and announcing more contracts in due course.”

The deals have been set up using the Routes to Market Regional Delivery Partnership, with the 13 companies – known as Delivery Integration Partners (DIPs) – working on 18 packages of schemes across the country.

Duncan Elliott, Managing Director of Galliford Try Highways, said: “We’re delighted for this opportunity to further strengthen our relationship with Highways England in schemes which will bring such a huge benefit to their customers.

“The appointment underlines the strategic importance of highways to our construction business and the vast experience, expertise and resource we can offer in this sector.”

The A47 improvement programme is scheduled to be completed in 2024 with work set to start on the A303 Sparkford to Ilchester scheme next March.


Ground-breaking rail collaboration launched to improve services for passengers

A ground-breaking deal has been agreed today among rail bosses to deliver higher standards for rail users in the West Midlands.


Areas that fall under the new, first-of-its-kind West Midlands Grand Rail Collaboration (GRC) deal will benefit from improved train service performance, simplified fare structures, better quality of trains and stations and improved timetable reliability.


Launched by mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street yesterday (Thursday, 19th September) the GRC partnership brings together five train operating companies, Network Rail, the West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE), Vintage Trains, Transport Focus and the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education to drive up excellent customer service.


Mayor Andy Street, who is also the independent chair of GRC 2019-2020, said: “Rail patronage in the West Midlands is growing faster than the rest of the UK and we are investing massively in the railways and delivering new stations.


“However, we know problems still exist, particularly around punctuality and capacity, which is why I have launched the GRC so we can tackle these challenges effectively.


“Quite simply, this new collaboration is about putting the customer first – whether that is with reliable and dependable services that meet where and when people want to travel, or by creating stations that are modern, clean, and accessible to all.”


The GRC has introduced a performance task force, to ensure reliability and punctuality problems are seen to as efficiently as possible. Open lines of communication have been established between the train operators and Network Rail to make decisions that are in the best interest of the customer.


The collaboration is keen to keep communities, including accessibility and station experience stay at the heart of GRC. Members have vowed to tackle problems head on and promised action right here, right now.


Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, managing director of West Midlands Trains, added: “With travelling by rail more popular than ever, this vital collaboration enables us to work together across the industry to provide the West Midlands ‘travel to work area’ with a joined-up, easy to understand rail network.

“By coming together with partners in this unique way we can be more proactive and make a real impact as the West Midlands transport network continues to grow.”