Highways programme approved to help move Hertfordshire forward

£46 million worth of highways schemes have been given the go ahead by Hertfordshire County Council.

Between April 2020 and March 2021 over £46 million will be spent delivering nearly 1,500 maintenance and improvement schemes across Hertfordshire’s 3,000 miles of road.

Planned works include repairs and maintenance to roads, pavements, bridges and traffic signals, as well as improvements such as tackling safety problems, reducing traffic congestion, and making walking and cycling more practical and attractive options.

This year’s highways funding includes £8m which the county council is spending on improving the condition of local roads people live and work on, as the latest part of a five-year £37m programme targeted on those smaller, local roads.

Phil Bibby, Cabinet Member for Highways and Environment, said: “We’ve increased the budget for highway improvements to make sure we can deliver the maintenance and improvement schemes that our roads need, and we’re investing £37m over five years to improve the unclassified road network – that’s the roads most of us live on as well as rural lanes.

“We know that the condition of the county’s roads really matters to our residents, and it matters to us too. While we can’t do everything, this work programme, along with the regular repairs we do, will make a real difference to roads across the county.”

The Integrated Works Programme covers a full range of highway maintenance and improvement schemes that the council undertakes each year. These schemes are in addition to the minor repairs and routine maintenance, such as fixing potholes and cutting grass verges, which are carried out throughout the year.

The works are prioritised in a number of ways. For maintenance works we include a combination of roads – both those that need repairs because they are in a poor state now and those that need preventative maintenance work to avoid problems in the near future – while improvement schemes take into account factors like reducing accidents, tackling congestion and making it easier for people to walk, cycle or use public transport instead of their car.

The works programme is ‘integrated’ because, once we have established priorities, we look to see how those schemes can best be delivered together to increase efficiency and reduce disruption on the roads.

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.

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, www.highwaysengland.co.uk/a428

Connected vehicle data has the potential to improve road safety

The Connected Places Catapult (CPC) says that connected vehicle data has the potential to end the scourge of potholes, improve driver behaviour and reduce the impact of incidents on UK roads.

It has conducted a stakeholder workshop seeking to understand what challenges would need to be overcome to unlock the value of this data in the UK.

The research follows a report, published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), claiming that 71% of new vehicles registered in the UK in 2019 were connected.

The CPC identified challenges including improving public and business trust in data sharing, lack of awareness of existing standards and technology maturity levels.

A key theme highlighted throughout the research was the need for a more strategic approach across the sector, which brings together isolated and uncoordinated development activities and joins existing information.

Industry leaders who took part in the research called for a number of activities to be launched in the UK before 2025 to address these challenges. These included tasks around skill development, technology development, identification of business benefits and updating regulation.

Henry Tse, CPC director of New Mobility Technologies, said: “There is a market need to pull data and insights together and increase knowledge-sharing across the connected vehicle sector, rather than it be stored in disparate locations.

“Doing this will unlock a host of benefits which could improve road safety for users, unlock economic benefits through a more efficient transport system and create innovative new businesses and services.

“We are now recommending the establishment of a consortium which can support and guide the activities and projects in this area, create a clear industry vision and accelerate the value the UK gets from this data in the new decade.”

Iain Forbes, head of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, added: “In-vehicle data offers a host of potential benefits to UK consumers. This roadmap is a useful contribution to the essential work on how this data could be used to unlock exciting new services in a safe and sustainable way.”

A full summary of findings can be found here.

Author:  Gareth Roberts
Disclaimer: This article was not originally written by a member of the HighwaysIndustry.Com team.

Work set to begin on £24m scheme to tackle A45 bottleneck

Work is set to begin on transforming a major bottleneck on the A45 to ease congestion and bring smoother journeys for drivers.

A major £24 million upgrade is planned by Highways England for the busy A45/A6 Chowns Mill junction that will make journeys safer and more reliable. Work will begin on 10 February 2020.

The A45 is a key link between the A14 and M1, serving the growing Northampton, Wellingborough and Rushden areas.

At Chowns Mill Roundabout the A45 is crossed by the A6 and provides access into Higham Ferrers and Rushden. The high volume of traffic combined with a lack of space on the roundabout results in severe congestion on the approaches at peak times.

The A45 Chowns Mill improvement scheme will:

  • Alleviate existing congestion and improve journey times by providing additional lanes
  • Improve safety by changing the junction layout and introducing traffic signals – managing the flow of traffic through the junction more effectively and reducing the chance of collisions
  • Provide better access for pedestrians and cyclists thanks to new signalled crossings which will make it safer to cross the junction.

As part of the scheme the junction will be redesigned as a half hamburger layout with a new link road connecting the A6 South and A5028 with the existing roundabout. This will allow a better flow of traffic reducing congestion through the junction. All approaches will be widened to provide extra lanes and increase capacity.

Highways England Project Manager Dean Holloway said:

“This much-needed improvement will bring huge benefits for road users, businesses and the local community as we take away this bottleneck and get traffic moving through here again.

“The upgrade will not only increase capacity and therefore reduce congestion, but it will also make the junction safer and improve the experience for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Highways England is hosting two public information events ahead of the main works starting for anyone who would like more details of the scheme and the chance to chat to a member of the project team.

Taking place on Wednesday 5 February and Saturday 8 February, the exhibitions will be held at the Carnell construction site office just off the Chowns Mill roundabout on the A6 (south) towards Rushden from 4-8pm on Wednesday and 11am to 4pm on Saturday.

Public parking will be available on site at the public exhibition events. There will also be a free half hourly public shuttle bus with disabled access operating from to/from the site from Hecham Way off Station Road (A5028) Higham Ferrers.

To maintain a safe environment for our work force and road users during the works, narrow lanes and a 40mph speed restriction will be in place both day and night. The A5028 Station Road, Higham Ferrers, will be closed for nine months as part of the improvements scheme.

Two weekend closures are planned for the A45 between Chowns Mill roundabout and Rushden Lakes both east and west bound. The closures will run from 8pm Friday 21 February to 5am Monday 24 February and during the same times the following weekend from 8pm Friday 28 February to 5am Monday 2 March

Work will take place at night for the first three months of the scheme to remove the A45 dual carriageway central islands and installing the narrow lanes which will enable traffic to continue to pass through the junction. Then work will take place during the day for the majority of the rest of the scheme.

New images released as next phase of Lower Thames Crossing consultation begins

New images showing plans for Britain’s longest road tunnel connecting Kent, Essex and Thurrock have been released as the project begins its next phase of public consultation today.

The further consultation into Highways England’s proposed Lower Thames Crossing will give people the chance to have their say on latest changes to the multi-billion pound project.

The changes have been made after detailed analysis of the 29,000 responses received during the last consultation held in 2018, and new technical information following surveys and ground investigations.

The Lower Thames Crossing will provide a new 14.3-mile 70mph road connecting Kent, Thurrock and Essex, with the world’s third-widest bored tunnel.

It will almost double road capacity across the River Thames east of London, connecting communities, reducing delays and providing more reliable journeys.

The eight-week consultation began today (00:01 29 January) and will end at 23:59 on 25 March.

People can respond in the consultation by visiting one of 20 events in Kent, Essex and Thurrock, by completing an online survey through the Lower Thames Crossing website, sending a form via Freepost, or sending an email.

Chris Taylor, Director of Highways England’s Complex Infrastructure Programme, said:

“The Lower Thames Crossing is Highways England’s most ambitious project in 30 years, designed to improve journeys across the southeast and open up new connections and opportunities for people and businesses.

“Getting the views of the local community and businesses is crucial to designing a project that will offer the best value, maximise the benefits for all, while reducing the impact on local communities and the environment. This consultation is a chance for people to review and comment on a number of changes made since our last consultation in 2018, and to help shape this once-in-a-generation project.”

The updates to the design include:

  • Providing direct access between Gravesend and the A2/M2 eastbound, and a redesigned Gravesend East junction and link roads to reduce congestion;
  • Extending the southern tunnel entrance (in Gravesend) 350 metres south to move the road away from properties in Chalk and reduce impact on protected bird habitats in the Ramsar Marshes and the Thames Estuary;
  • Removing the rest and service area and maintenance depot after further investigation and consideration of the issues raised during statutory consultation, which means the junction at Tilbury is no longer required;
  • Moving the alignment of the route between Tilbury and the A13 junction by approximately 60 metres (north-east) to avoid pylons and overhead cables;
  • Redesigning some slip roads around the A13/A1089 junction to move roads away from properties, improve safety at the junctions, and improve visual impact, and;
  • Removing one lane southbound between the M25 and A13 junction to reduce the amount of land required, while still providing sufficient capacity.

Other updated plans on show include:

  • More details on the construction plans for the Lower Thames Crossing;
  • A revised development boundary resulting from of the design changes, proposed utility diversions and additional land required for
    environmental mitigation, and;
  • A set of proposals for maintaining, improving and upgrading the walking, cycling and horse-riding network around the Lower Thames Crossing.

Once the consultation closes in March, Highways England will analyse the new responses ahead of finalising its plans to seek planning consent for the project, through submitting a Development Consent Order (DCO).

As part of the DCO application, Highways England will submit a Consultation Report, explaining how the issues raised during both consultations were considered and responded to.

To keep up to date with the latest travel information follow @HighwaysEAST on Twitter or visit www.highwaysengland.co.uk

Further Lower Thames Crossing consultation as plans are refined

Britain’s most ambitious roads project in a generation will begin its next phase of public consultation next week, Highways England has announced today.

The further consultation into the multi-billion pound Lower Thames Crossing, which will connect, Essex, Thurrock and Kent, will give people the opportunity to look at, and comment on, changes made to the project’s design.

These tweaks have been made following a combination of feedback received from 29,000 responses during the last consultation held in 2018, as well as new technical information following surveys and ground investigations.

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing project will be a 14.3-mile, 70mph new road, with the longest road tunnel in the UK beneath the country’s second longest river.

It will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London, connecting communities, reducing delays and providing more reliable journeys.

Chris Taylor, Director of Highways England’s Complex Infrastructure Programme, said:

“The Lower Thames Crossing is Highways England’s most ambitious scheme in 30 years, and we are designing a new route that will boost the local and regional economy, while providing quicker and more reliable journeys.

“We have made some changes to the design of the scheme based on new information, feedback from our consultation in 2018 and ongoing engagement with local the community and organisations. This further consultation is an opportunity for people to have their say on the changes before we submit our planning application later this year.”

The eight-week consultation will run from Wednesday 29 January 2020 to Wednesday 25 March.

People can respond to the consultation by visiting one of 20 events along the proposed route, by completing an online survey through the Lower Thames Crossing website, sending a form via Freepost, or sending an email.

To keep up to date with the latest travel information follow @HighwaysEAST on Twitter or visit www.highwaysengland.co.uk

Safety concerns prevent AA crews stopping on smart motorways

Smart motorway networks are considered so dangerous AA breakdown crews are not allowed to stop on the roads to help stricken motorists.
AA crews are instructed to drive to a safer location and wait for a car to be towed by Highways England crews according to a former staff member. The revelation comes after data revealed nine people were killed in accidents across the smart motorway network last year.

Speaking to the BBC, former AA patrolman of the year Tony Rich revealed how several road users are forced to wait up to 17 minutes for help.

He said: “We’ll contact the customer to say ‘we can’t stop where you are’.

“We will contact Highways England, go to a safe area and wait for the vehicle to be delivered.”

An AA spokesperson told Express.co.uk several recovery groups have signed up to a safety group Survive who has issued advice against recovering cars on smart motorway networks.

Recovery teams are told to not attempt to stop or provide assistance on smart motorways if a traffic officer is not in attendance or a safe area has not been created.

Edmund King, AA President said: “Being stuck in a live lane is incredibly dangerous. The official advice is keep your seat belt and hazard lights on and dial 999.

“It is not safe for breakdown organisations to recover vehicles unless the lane is closed and has a physical presence sat behind the casualty vehicle. This is either the Police with blue flashing lights or Highways England Traffic Officers with red flashing lights.

“This highlights the severity of breaking down in a live lane and further emphasises our calls for double the number of Emergency Refuge Areas. Providing drivers with more places of relative safety would reduce the risk of vehicles being stuck in a lane of fast moving traffic.”

Mr Rich also said many cars often breakdown out of sight of sophisticated cameras used to monitor the road for issues which can lead to delays.

He even revealed many of the smart motorway cameras were not working at all.

The revelation comes a day after document published by The Sunday Times confirmed camera technology used to detect broken down vehicles could stop working in moderate to heavy traffic.

In leaked documents, the system’s chief engineer, Mike Wilson, said the dense traffic can make it difficult to detect stopped vehicles.

The revelation means motorists could be stuck on the side of live motorway lanes in a major safety hazard.

Eight-year old schoolboy Dev Naran was killed when a lorry hit his family members vehicle after breaking down on a live smart motorway lane.

The danger saw four people killed on a stretch of smart motorway on the M1 in just ten months.

In a letter leaked to the Sunday Telegraph, police and crime commissioner Alan Billings said officers repeatedly warned how the M1 smart motorway plans would put lives at risk.

Mr Billings said his team had raised serious concerns about losing the hard shoulder on the road and said he was not convinced the plans would make the road any safer.

The roads have no hard shoulder and motorists with car issues are forced to drive to an Emergency Refuge Area which can be spaced over one mile apart.

Data from Highways England has shown over 19,000 cars have stopped on a live lane over the past two years alone.

The statistics equate to an average of 26 breakdowns on the roads each day in a major concern for road users.

The risks pushed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to admit people were dying on the roads and announce a Department for Transport review into the roads.

The conclusions into the review is expected in the coming weeks although Highways England boss Jim O’Sullivan has already announced some changes to the networks.

Just months ago, Mr O’Sullivan confirmed Highways England would not be building any more all-lane active running schemes after branding the road too confusing.

However, Highways England have previously said evidence shows all-lane running schemes have reduced casualty rates by more than 25 percent.

In a previous statement, Highways England said all smart motorway roads have incident detection and automatic signalling systems in place.

They added detection for stopped vehicles would be incorporated in all future smart motorway schemes as part of the design.

However, they said stopped vehicle detection was just part of several safety features in the roads.

They added the road would not be deemed unsafe if the technology was not installed in the road.

Automated cone laying vehicle trials due to start

Highways experts are developing pioneering technology to eliminate one of the biggest risks facing England’s roadworkers.

Highways England and its partners are joining forces to create automated vehicles to lay cones on the country’s motorways and major A roads – and prevent workers having to lift an average 10 tonnes of equipment per shift.

Cones are needed to protect road users and road workers while essential improvements or maintenance is carried out on the busy routes.

But dramatic footage released today by Highways England shows how terrifying it can be for the workers who traditionally put the cones out, working in tandem from the back of a vehicle as motorway traffic thunders past just yards away.

As the workers manually lift and place each of the cones, the footage shows vans and lorries rushing by, often beeping their noisy horns.

Now Highways England is working with a group of industry experts to develop pioneering machines that will take away the need for cones to be manually placed. This will improve safety and free up two workers to carry out other tasks.

The automated cone laying machines could be in use by the end of 2020.

Highways England Group Leader Martin Bolt, who oversees innovation in the Midlands, said:

“Safety is always the priority for Highways England and we are constantly looking for ways to ensure everyone who works and travels on our road network is protected.

“By taking out the human element in the laborious task of putting out cones, we will be taking out an element of potential risk. As well as taking away this physical labour, these automated machines could also save valuable person hours and allow us to redeploy the workforce to other traffic management duties.

“We are delighted to be working with all of our partners to create an innovative vehicle that will make this possible.”

Experts from Highways England, Kier, HW Martin Traffic Management and competitors Highway Care and King Highway Products are working together in a collaborative effort to resolve this potential safety risk.

Highways England are funding the development and establishing a minimum standard while the companies themselves are developing the vehicles.

Putting out cones is still currently undertaken by two people on the rear of a vehicle working in tandem. The bulk of this work is undertaken at night and carried out in most weathers.

An average 1m high cone weighs approximately 10kgs.

A typical 4km closure involves putting down – and later removing – approximately 260-300 cones, meaning that two workers will both handle between 5-6 tonnes per shift in cones alone.

When additional equipment such as frames, signs, lamps, sand bags are factored in, it is not unreasonable for them to lift between eight and 10 tonnes per shift.

A single kilometre of coning takes approximately 15 minutes to install and remove, resulting in an exposure time to live traffic of approximately two hours per shift.

To date, ergonomics experts have struggled to identify a suitable method of placing and removing cones that doesn’t have an impact on workers due to the twisting of the body required and environmental conditions that the work is undertaken in.

Two automated cone laying vehicles are being developed with testing due to get under way next month at a centre in Lutterworth, Leicestershire. If the tests prove successful the two companies will be able to take their vehicles to the marketplace.

Highways England criteria stipulates that not only must the machines offer a safer method for highways workers, they must be safe for all road users and pose no further risk to traffic.

It is hoped both machines – if they prove themselves in testing – will be implemented in late 2020.

Highways England is committed to investing in innovation and this is the latest automated machine which has been put to use to improve safety and reduce disruption for drivers.

A quirky road-marking robot is being used to mark out new or resurfaced roads saving hours of engineers’ time on schemes across the country and avoiding hundreds of hours of disruption.

And tests began last year on the A14 of self-driving dump trucks which move huge amounts of earth and provide the potential to work around the clock so could help reduce the length of time roadworks are on the ground.

£7 million highways scheme completed to cut congestion in Birchwood

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has hailed Warrington Borough Council following the completion of a £7 million highways scheme to cut congestion in Birchwood.

The Warrington East project – a series of transport and highways improvements on Birchwood Way – has officially finished.

The completion of the third and final phase brings to an end the major programme of improvements for the area.

Phase three consisted of the dualling of the A574 Birchwood Way between the Moss Gate/Daten Avenue junction and M62 junction 11. It was opened to traffic in December.

The new carriageway has been constructed on land reserved for this purpose since the Northern Expressway was first built in the mid-1970s as part of the Warrington New Town highway network.

The council says the scheme will play a key role in supporting the economy, including the Birchwood Enterprise Zone, Birchwood Boulevard and Birchwood Shopping Centre.

Northern Powerhouse and local growth minister Mr Berry has responded to the news.

He said: “Congratulations to Warrington Borough Council and Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership on the successful completion of this important infrastructure project which will help reduce congestion, improve connections and support businesses to grow.

“This £6.9 million investment from the Government’s local growth fund into the Warrington East highway demonstrates our commitment to boosting economic growth, levelling up and connecting communities across the Northern Powerhouse.”

Cllr Hans Mundry, the council’s cabinet member for transportation, highways and public realm, says the scheme will make a ‘huge difference’ to motorists using the stretch of road.

“I’m absolutely delighted that this hugely important project – delivering major transport improvements on a key gateway into Warrington – has been completed on time and well within budget,” he said.

Council leader Cllr Russ Bowden was also left delighted.

“The completion of the Warrington East programme is a major success for our borough and an important part of our ongoing investment in our highways infrastructure,” he said.