Amey Consulting trials patented sensor technology to tackle sewer flooding

A new technology recently patented by Amey Consulting in the UK is currently undergoing trials with the Water Research Council to tackle the problem of sewer flooding.


Sewer flooding in the UK is a major issue – in 2018, over 3,200 properties were internally flooded by sewers causing millions of pounds worth of damage.

Water industry regulator Ofwat also imposes fines on the water companies for exceeding the allowed number of sewer flooding incidents – each incident can potentially cost a utility company over £40,000.

The technology is based on capacitive sensors (the same technology which is used in smartphone screens) to detect the depth and speed of the flow in the pipe. Analysis of the data picked up by the sensors is used to assess where blockages are and to predict the likelihood of flooding so that utility companies can take preventative action. Key advantage of the technology is its extremely low power consumption,combined with the use of cloud processing, that gathers insight from data across the whole sewer network rather than from individual sensors.

Commenting, Charles Oldham, Head of Strategic Consulting, Amey, said:

“Amey Consulting is working closely with our clients and partners to solve the problem of sewer blockages that lead to flooding, a situation that is exacerbated by our increasingly wetter weather.

“This is an exciting technology that if piloted successfully with our utility clients in 2020, could have further applications across large estates such as airports, cities that are impacted by being on or close to a flood plain or for local authorities trying to manage highways flooding.”

The data captured from the sensors will be communicated to the cloud via a mobile network operator at regular intervals. This enables utility companies, using a data analytics platform, to predict and take preventative action on sewer floods.

For connectivity of the project at the current trial stage, Amey Consulting is using the next-generation NB-IoT technology, which is specifically designed for this type of application. The next stage is a pilot programme with utility companies. If these are successful, Amey Consulting will work to commercialise the technology and expand it outside the UK.

Research and development work on the technology was undertaken by Amey Consulting, led by Dr. Stephen Gooberman-Hill and co-inventors Dr. Michele Gaio and Dr. Vergil Yotov. The team drew on the expertise of the Amey Utilities business and the project was supported and funded by Amey Investments.

Overtaking ban and reduced speed limits in place for six months due to roadworks on A27

Improvement works to the A27 near Eastbourne are expected to last for six months, with an overtaking ban being brought in and some speed limits set as low as 40mph.

The works, to be carried out by Highways England, will start on March 10 and end in September, which involve ‘junction improvements’ and ‘widening works’, according to Highways.

Traffic management regulations and road closures have been outlined by Highways. These will be in effect in phases and sometimes lasting up to 24 hours.

The traffic regulations include:

• A 24-hour 40mph speed limit on both carriageways between the bridge over the railway towards Cophall Roundabout

• An overtaking ban between Polegate junction and Cophall Roundabout

• A contraflow system in place for some carriageways

The road closures include:

  • The westbound carriageway between Polegate junction and Gainsborough Avenue
  • Both carriageways between Polegate junction and Wannock Road junction
  • The link road connecting the eastbound carriageway to the northbound carriageway at Polegate junction
  • All of the side roads’ junctions with the roads listed above
  • The footway adjacent to the northbound carriageway near Cophall Roundabout, and also the roundabout itself
  • The pedestrian crossing near Cophall Roundabout

A Highways spokesperson said the measures would be in the interests of road safety and that all traffic regulations will be clearly indicated by signs

Routes for diverted traffic will be via A22, A27, A2021, A2280.

Ep 8 Safely shaping a sustainable railway, Martin Frobisher

Martin Frobisher, Group director, Safety, Technical & Engineering and Network Rail, joins us in the RTM Podcast room to discuss the renewable railway of the future and safety on the track. As a Director of industry giant, Network Rail, Martin has a lot of advice regarding safety and security on railways, but it might not be what you think.

With hosts Emily Rodgers and Ailsa Cowen, the conversation kept flowing in the RTM podcast room in Manchester as we hear all Martin’s role in ensuring the 42,000 network rail staff are working safely, and how this can spread to the wider supply chain.

Find out Martin’s opinion on the Oakervee review, his work with RSSB and what aspect he thinks ‘Britain’s railway has got it right’.

Martin believes that technology is the key to a safer railway and that modern systems can take people away from the path of trains and a Safety Taskforce that has already seen a 30% reduction in the number of people working with lookout flags making a 70% reduction in near missed from people using that method of work.

Another area of passion for Martin is environmental, he talks in depth about a fully electric railway and says a zero-carbon railway is the really big picture for the next 20/30 years.

What Does the New Immigration Points System Mean for the UK Built Environment Sector?

Today the government has announced a new points based immigration system for skilled workers wanting to move to the UK. The system, to be introduced in 2021, will require workers to achieve a total of 70 points to be granted a visa. The points can be achieved by having a skill, receiving a job offer at a minimum salary of £25,600 and possessing English language skills. Additional points can be awarded for specific industry sectors where there is a recognised skills shortage and for additional qualifications.

Despite being announced only a few hours ago, concern has already been voiced from organisations representing unskilled workers who will fail to meet the criteria but who, many argue, are needed especially in sectors such as social care. It is clear that there are still many details that need to be ironed out before the scheme is launched early next year. However, it is also clear that employers and recruiters will need to ensure they are prepared for the changes and play their part in ensuring access to the talent supply.

What does this mean for the built environment sector?

Carrington West works with employers across the public and private sectors on highly skilled technical roles as well as manual labourers, all working on planning, design, implementation and maintenance of major UK infrastructure projects. Blayne Cahill, Director of the Highways & Transport division at Carrington West says of the proposed changes,

“There has already been a focus on the skills gap in areas such as engineering. On the face of it, this could be a way of attracting to the UK those skilled and experienced at delivering much needed projects in the most cost-efficient way. Certainly, in this post Brexit era, it could make our role as recruiters easier if we are able to extend our search beyond geographical boundaries to fill those very niche and highly technical roles. However, we mustn’t lose sight of the initiatives that still need to be put into place to secure a homegrown talent pool. Reskilling or upskilling of existing workers has proved very effective. Similarly, a focus on STEM education in schools and colleges, leading onto government and privately-run apprenticeships is another way to future proof the supply of suitably qualified workers in our sector.”

Blayne goes on to say,

“It remains to be seen how the scheme will impact employees looking for lower paid, unskilled workers. The policy statement released today clearly states the aim is to reduce overall migration levels, and asserts that the number of EU citizens that are currently resident in the UK and can apply for the right to remain will be sufficient to cover any short term shortfalls in lower skilled labour. Whether this is the case remains to be seen.”

Today’s news will not be a surprise to many in the built environment sector but will likely be met with concern. The construction industry, in particular, is reliant on EU lower skilled workers. Mark Reynolds, head of the Construction Leadership Council has already said to industry magazine Building,

“the new system is likely to make it harder for the UK construction sector to deliver the homes and infrastructure we so desperately need”.

Whatever challenges lay ahead, everyone in the recruitment supply chain will need to undertake a period of adjustment. As recruiters, our responsibility is to continue to ensure the recruitment industry works transparently and to the highest possible standards to match employers with available talent wherever that talent may be.

Maple Grove to develop commercial scheme in Lancashire

Maple Grove Developments has been announced as commercial development partners for the Lancashire County Council-led commercial project

The Lancashire commercial development will create thousands of jobs on a 65-hectare site at Cuerden, near Leyland. Situated at the end of the M65 motorway, and close to both the M6 and M61, the development is planned to include office and business space, logistics and manufacturing commercial space, mixed-use areas and housing.

Based in Bamber Bridge, Maple Grove Developments are part of Eric Wright Group. They will now bring their expertise to the plans for the site before detailed plans are submitted later this year.

The City Deal

City Deal is an agreement between the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, along with central government and Homes England.

The City Deal will help to create more than 20,000 new private-sector jobs and see over 17,000 new homes built across the area, along with new school places, open green spaces and new health provision to cater for the growing population.

Make Lancashire Central a success

Geoff Driver CBE, leader of the County Council, said: “By working in partnership with Maple Grove on this major development, they will bring their extensive knowledge and expertise to help us to bring thousands of jobs to Lancashire through this very exciting project.

“Maple Grove have many years of experience of developing sites like this and will be integral to bringing our plans to life. They have also based a short distance from the Lancashire Central site at Cuerden, so they also really understand the area.

“It’s vital that we manage this project in the right way so that we create something which works for the needs of business and create jobs in Lancashire, while understanding the location and setting.

“We’re clear that the development of this important site will bring benefits to the whole of Lancashire, through new jobs and growing our economy.”

Karen Hirst, managing director at Maple Grove Developments, added: “As a Lancashire developer we are hugely committed to making Lancashire Central a success.

“Having worked closely with the council on this scheme previously, we feel privileged to have been selected again and look forward to making an immediate start on bringing forward this site to create employment opportunities for the local area.”


Wherry Lines see introduction of new signalling system

130 years of signalling history came to an end today (Feb 17th) on the Wherry lines alongside the reopening of the Norwich to Yarmouth line.

This follows completion of work to introduce a new computerised signalling system, improving dependability of train services.

A section of the East Suffolk line from Beccles to Lowestoft also reopened today.

Having been shut since February 1st engineers have switched the signalling system over from the old, Victorian mechanical signals which have been in place for over 130 years, to the modern computer-based system.

Work on the Norwich to Yarmouth line took place at level crossings including Brundall, Lingwood Chapel Road and Station Road to put in place full barriers and crossing lights along with upgrade work to numerous user worked crossing such as Acle Marshes to develop crossing safety.

New signals were also powered up along the lines and signalling engineers moved the last of the local signal box controls to Colchester as part of the modernisation programme.

Signalling work has also took place on the Norwich to Lowestoft line as well as track upgrade works at Lowestoft and renewal points outside of Oulton Broad North allowing railway trains to be directed from one track to another.

Brundall level crossing


The reopening of the Norwich to Yarmouth and Beccles to Lowestoft lines will allow engineers to now focus on delivering just over three kilometres of track renewals at Hassingham, improving the journey quality for passengers.

Conclusive work is taking place at Cantely, Strumpshaw and Oulton Broad North level crossings to bring them into use when the Norwich to Lowestoft line is expected to reopen on 24 February.

Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, Ellie Burrows, said: “The completion of the re-signalling work is a significant milestone for the history of the Wherry lines. and we are in a really good position to complete the track works at Hassingham and reintroduce train services on the Norwich to Lowestoft line on 24 February.”

Director at engineering consultancy Atkins, Scott Kelley, said: “Working closely with Network Rail and our supply chain partners, we look forward to completing the transformation of this important route which will serve communities right across Anglia.”

What Does HS2 Mean for the Job Market?

By Oliver Gooch

Earlier this week Boris Johnson confirmed that HS2 will go ahead. Despite controversies over the cost and management of the project, the Prime Minister has committed to finishing the scheme so future generations will benefit from infrastructure regeneration. Responsibility for delivery will lie with an appointed minister to oversee the project which also has the support of local government leaders in the regions that will benefit from a better rail connection.

Now the decision has been made, attention will turn to the skills that will be needed to ensure the HS2 is completed by 2040. In September 2019, an HS2 Phase 2a Information Paper states that at its peak, HS2 will support 30,000 jobs in rail and engineering activities and create 3,100 permanent jobs in services and maintenance. In addition to these roles, the construction and operation of Phase 1 and 2 stations and depots is expected to create 40,000 accessible jobs .

Undoubtedly, there will be a skills shortage in the short term whilst schemes are put into place to attract and train new entrants to the talent pool. In fact, the lack of suitable skills is probably the biggest challenge HS2 will face. As experienced infrastructure and rail recruiters, we are well aware of the skills gap that already exists in the sector, especially as we are in unchartered waters with Brexit likely resulting in the withdrawal of some existing workers.

On balance, however, the news for the rail and infrastructure recruitment market is positive. HS2 opportunities have the potential to shape the careers of a generation of soon to be school and college leavers that can be funnelled into the newly created roles. A number of apprenticeship schemes already exist, and we expect these to increase significantly. Up-skilling the current workforce will also be necessary. With the right support and training, HS2 will create some amazing opportunities for every level of worker throughout the HS2 supply chain.

For more information about HS2 and other rail jobs we are recruiting for, please contact Oliver Gooch, Lead Consultant.



Northumbrian Water and partners offer £25k to develop Dragonfly sensor network

Northumbrian Water, CGI and the Water Hub are offering inventors and creators up to £25,000 to help them turn an idea which will both protect the environment and improve rural internet connectivity, into a reality.

The deadline for applications is fast approaching – interested organisations have until close of play until Friday 14th February 2020 to submit a formal application through Durham University’s Water Hub, including a CV to [email protected].

The concept of ‘Dragonfly’ aims to see information on a number of variables such as temperature, quality, flow and depth, collected in real-time from the regions’ watercourses, through the use of water sensors.

The information will help the North East water company maintain its industry-leading environmental performance by managing its water and wastewater network better, as well as helping other organisations make decisions about how the catchment is managed and water safety.

A number of the different sensors placed in rivers and streams would form a mesh concept, linking multiple units together by 5G and also creating a physical network of wireless connectivity for the benefit of rural communities.

The idea came out of Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival last year, where more than 100 people took part in the five-day challenge to enhance rural communities and the environment, facilitated by global IT and business consulting company, CGI.

Now, the two organisations, together with the Water Hub – a Durham University-led partnership between Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water, are looking for inventive minds to help them develop a working Dragonfly product.

Up to £25,000 will be awarded to the chosen applicant, who will have until July to create and build the prototype, before showcasing it at Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival from 6-12 July 2020.

The concept will also be presented at the Water Hub’s Ripple Event on Wednesday March 18, 2020 – a networking event for water technology innovation.

Northumbrian Water’s Catchment Co-ordinator, Clare Deasy, said: “Dragonfly is a very exciting project that came out of our Innovation Festival.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for someone to help us bring Dragonfly to life, exploring the possibility for creating a low-cost, low-maintenance, self-powered sensor which would have huge benefits for water companies, the partners we work with and our customers.

“We’re very excited to see what possibilities the chosen applicant brings to the table and to start helping us make a difference for the environment.”

A428 Black Cat improvement proposals win public support

Proposals to transform one of the East of England’s busiest roads have received strong backing from members of the public responding to a recent consultation.

Highways England is proposing to replace the Black Cat roundabout in Bedfordshire with a new, free-flowing junction and create a new 10-mile dual carriageway linking it to a redesigned Caxton Gibbet junction, replacing the only remaining section of single carriageway between Milton Keynes and Cambridge and tackling one of the region’s most notorious congestion hotspots.

More than 2500 people attended a programme of 17 events held over an eight-week period last summer, with thousands more engaging with the project online and 925 people sending in detailed responses to the consultation.

Eighty-eight per cent of people said they support the proposed new 10-mile dual carriageway linking the Black Cat roundabout in Bedfordshire to the Caxton Gibbet roundabout in Cambridgeshire.

A further eight-six per cent of respondents backed the plans for the three-tier design of the Black Cat junction, which would see traffic on the A1 and A428 flow freely through the junction.

The responses to the consultation were detailed and insightful, with many welcoming the proposals believing the new dual carriageway and junctions will help to cut journey times and reduce rat running on local village roads.

Lee Galloway, Highways England A428 Programme Lead, said:

“People across the region have expressed strong support for this project that will help to transform one the East of England’s busiest sections of road, when we held our comprehensive consultation in the summer. It will not only play a vital role in saving commuters up to 90 minutes on their journeys each week, but also help to unlock economic benefits for the area.

“We’ll now continue to develop the project design to make sure we maximise the benefits of the scheme while minimising the impacts on communities, drivers and the environment. While the consultation showed strong support for our proposals, there were also a few important points raised within the consultation feedback, which we’ll endeavour to address.

“We remain committed to opening the new road in 2025/26, and we will continue to work closely with stakeholders, communities and customers as the project progresses.”

During the consultation, Highways England’s proposals were brought to life using more than 2 billion blocks in the popular video game Minecraft. It was the first time that a major road scheme had been built in the game, and gave the opportunity for the next generation of drivers to share their views on the three-tier Black Cat roundabout or dual carriageway.

Road Minister, Baroness Vere, said:

“This Government is committed to delivering an infrastructure revolution. This upgrade would help drivers get to their destination quicker, cut traffic on local village roads and ensure communities across the East of England are better connected.

“We will now work with Highways England to develop the proposal further.”

Mayor Dave Hodgson, Chair of England’s Economic Heartland’s Strategic Transport Forum, said:

“We welcome the findings of the consultation. It reaffirms the high degree of public support for improving connectivity between the Black Cat and Caxton Gibbet – reducing the congestion and delays suffered daily by our residents and businesses, increasing the resilience of the network, and supporting economic growth and the ambitions of Local Plans.

“This publication is another positive step on the way to seeing significant investment being made in the Heartland region to the benefit of both the regional and UK economies.”

Summary of the responses from the consultation:

  • 88% either support or strongly support the proposals for the alignment of the new dual carriageway.
  • 86% either support or strongly support the proposals for the refined design of the Black Cat junction.
  • 79% either support or strongly support the proposals for the Cambridge Road junction.
  • 81% either support or strongly support the proposals for the Caxton Gibbet junction.
  • 73% either support or strongly support the proposed changes to the existing A428 junction at Eltisley.
  • 67% either support or strongly support the proposed route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The results of the consultation pave the way for Highways England to apply for planning consent – a Development Consent Order – from the Planning Inspectorate this summer, with construction targeted to begin in 2022.

As a part of the scheme, Highways England will examine 6000 years of human history along the 10-mile route of the new dual carriageway ranging from early prehistoric through Mesolithic – Neolithic to Post Medieval period. This work began in January with a programme of archaeological trial trenching investigations and will continue into the summer.

To keep up to date with the latest project developments, you can sign up to email updates on Highways England’s A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvement scheme webpage,

Thames Water cuts waste costs by recycling invasive wetlands mussels

More than 35 tonnes of quagga and zebra mussel shells, which are found in huge numbers and cost millions of pounds to remove, were crushed and used to create four new tern rafts during a conservation project at the award-winning Walthamstow Wetlands in North London.

Since 2006, Thames Water has spent almost £4 million clearing mussels, which latch on to the inside of pipes and tunnels, removing the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools full of shells.

Site manager Dan Brackley enquired about reusing the mussels, which were removed from the nearby Coppermills Stream, to save on the cost of building materials and disposing of the shells.

He said:

“These invasive non-native species are already present in all of our reservoirs as well as the rivers and underground tunnels. They can cause blockages and, as well as the cost of resources required to remove them, our treatment works can be affected while cleaning work is carried out.

“By using them like this, they can instead become a new tool for us, as this material can be used for future work on site, such as laying pathways and in filling potholes.”

During its latest clean, the 700m Thames U-tunnel, which runs from the High Maynard to the East Warwick reservoir at Walthamstow, was found to contain a massive 1,374 tonnes of the mollusc.

The new tern rafts made from the mussel shells and floating islands were also installed on the Banbury, Lockwood and East Warwick reservoirs.

Rebecca Elliott, Thames Water’s senior ecologist, commented:

“Developing innovative solutions to managing invasive non-native species is important to us.

“The solution we found here benefits the wildlife at Walthamstow Wetlands while removing the need to take waste to landfill, reducing our energy and carbon footprint and creating a new and sustainable environment, as well as saving the business and our customers’ money by reusing a material already present on the site.”