UK water sector launches wet wipes flushability standard

The UK water companies, together with their official body Water UK, have launched a new flushability standard for all wet wipes in a bid to combat the blockages which currently cost the country £100 million a year.

From now on manufacturers of wipes will be able to feature an official water industry ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol on their packaging if they pass strict scientific tests. This symbol will let consumers know that the products don’t contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of clogging up sewers and contributing to fatbergs which cause blockages and sewage overflows.

Fatbergs – mainly caused by a build-up of wet wipes, fats, oils and grease into a solid mass – have been increasing in frequency in recent years. These include a 250-metre long fatberg in Whitechapel in London in 2017 and a 64-metre fatberg which was discovered blocking a sewer in Sidmouth, Devon.

In 2017 the biggest ever in-depth investigation of sewer blockages in the UK proved that wipes being flushed down toilets caused serious problems in the sewerage system. The project found that non-flushable wet wipes could make up around 93% of the material causing some sewer blockages. The wipes – which included a high proportion of baby wipes – are not designed to be flushed.

Commenting on the new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said:

“This is an important step in the battle against blockages. We’ve all seen the impact of fatbergs recently, and we want to see fewer of them. Improving the environment is at the core of what the water industry does, and the new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard that we’ve created will make it easier for consumers to buy an environmentally-friendly product instead of one which clogs up drains and sewers.”

Manufacturers can have their wipes tested by WRc, the Swindon-based independent technical experts who developed the specifications for flushability standards in conjunction with Water UK. If they pass the tests, the wipes manufacturers will receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol from WRc.

Although there has been an increase in products being labelled ‘Do Not Flush’, there are many wipes on the market labelled ‘Flushable’ which do not break down quickly when they enter the sewer system, and which would not pass the stringent tests which meet the standard to receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol. The labelling of these products can cause confusion amongst consumers, increasing the problem of sewer blockages.

There are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages annually, costing the country £100 million. Thousands of properties suffer sewer flooding caused by the blockages every year in the UK, creating misery for homeowners and businesses and leading to high clean-up bills and increased insurance costs. Sewer flooding also has a major impact on the environment.

The technical name for ‘Fine to Flush’ is Water Industry Specification (WIS) 4-02-06.

Significant M23 road works continue

Work to reduce congestion and improve journey times on the M23 continue this week with narrow lanes and a reduced speed limit of 50mph North and South bound 24/7.

Sussex Neighbourhood Watch said there are no planned closures, but free recovery service and speed enforcement are in place ‘to ensure drivers and road workers safety’. From Monday (January 14) until Friday (January 18), a full closure of the junction 9 (Gatwick) exit slip road is planned between 10pm and 4am.

There will also be a fully signed diversion via junction 10 (Crawley) for Gatwick, A2011, London Road, Airport Way, or continue to M25 junction 6 and back onto the M23.

From Saturday (January 19), a full closure of the M23 is planned between junctions 10 – 8 North and Southbound between 10pm and 4am, whilst there will be a diversion for Gatwick via junction 10, A2011, London Road, Airport Way. For M25 via A264, there will be a diversion from A22 to junction 6 of the M25.

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

How self-driving technology is set to transform Scotland’s highways

The Scotland of the future could lead the world in next generation highway design. Its motorways and major ‘A’ roads would be fitted with segregated highway lanes that would host driverless electric vehicles or hybrids moving at great speeds in convoys.

The idea behind what would be called TEV (Track Electric Vehicle) lanes would be to provide a space in which to optimise the self-driving technology that is already being developed in Tesla vehicles.

Closed in TEV lanes could be added as a single lane on existing motorways providing an inherently safe environment for driverless cars to operate in because it would be a fixed guideway, the speeds would be steady and the fact that it was closed in would mean that the lane would be kept clear of debris, or animals or people crossing the road and so would be safe and would be easier to maintain and keep costs down.

The vehicles would be travelling on a special kind of surface, an ‘electric roadway’, meaning that they would be charging as they went along.

The TEV project was founded by Will Jones, founder of Philadelphia Scientific, an English-based high tech industrial battery company, and his daughter Caroline Jones Carrick, who is based in Prestwick in Ayrshire.

Jones Carrick says: “We’ve looked at all kinds of ways of implementing these roads; basically anywhere that has highways currently could implement these special lanes in place of ones that already exist. So the rights of way are there, you don’t have to develop from scratch.”

Scotland would be a very suitable place to develop a network of TEV lanes because of the comparatively large size of its land mass compared to its population. She says: “It’s not a high density place, there are a lot of long distance roads.

“You have ones going all the way up to the Highlands which we could imagine having these lanes. A network of TEV lanes could help to transform the country, contributing both significantly to the economy and to the environment.

“Basically passengers can relax, be productive, take their hands off the wheel and be travelling in a zero emissions environment.”

The use of self-driving technology would allow cars to be placed very closely together travelling in what they refer to as convoys. Jones Carrick explains the benefits of the convoys in her soft American accent: “Primarily that was to reduce energy consumption for the vehicle – just like slipstreaming in motor sport racing. If you tuck a car in behind another one, the front car bears the brunt of the air resistance and then the ones that follow consume less energy while they’re moving.

“We’re working on how to optimise convoys, how many vehicles should be in each convoy and what the energy consumption reduction is as a result. To get 40 per cent less consumption per vehicle is what we’re targeting.

“But the reason I specifically mentioned the convoys for places like Scotland is because when you’re spacing the cars closely together you’re also making these roads much higher capacity. We have worked out that you can get at least ten times as many cars on one single lane. Talk about a difference in land usage – suddenly you’ve got a motorway that’s a tenth of the size doing the same job.

“So imagine the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which everyone who takes that road thinks is a nightmare. If you put TEV lane in there you’re increasing the capacity of that road without expanding the road itself in terms of the land that it uses.

“If you’re building roads from scratch there’s a huge cost in terms of either acquiring land, or even if you have it, in the development involved in making the roadway through hillsides. If you’re repurposing a lane there’s a huge advantage there cost-wise.”

The model that those behind the TEV Project are working on is that the TEV lane would be in the outside lane. The key challenge would then be how you get the vehicles onto the motorway and into the TEV lane.

Jones Carrick says: “The engineering challenge becomes on and off ramps and things like that, but this is also what was faced by highways in the 1940s, fifties and sixties when they were implemented.”

The working idea is for on ramp that would go over the inside lanes and take the vehicles to join the covered TEV lane. “As long as you are in that lane, a human cannot be in control because we’re asking the car to do such precise stuff that the work has to be done by the computer,” she says.

“If you look at a schematic of the road design there are what we call friction surfaces under the tyre and they will be optimised for rolling resistance so you are not losing any more energy than you need to as the rubber tyres are moving along it, but you’re not making it so slippery that the rubber tyres can’t stop really fast. Because that’s the great thing about rubber-tyred vehicles they can stop really quickly.

“So you see two black strips they are the friction surfaces, they’re not like a train track or anything, they’re just the surfaces the tyres move on. Beside them is the mechanism for powering the vehicle’s battery.

“Because the vehicle has to be spaced quite precisely the computer has to be in control. On a traditional road you’ll often see a 12-foot wide space because human drivers veer around within a lane.

“Today the self-driving technology can do the proximity control. So it can very accurately space how close it is to the vehicle in front. The next step for us will be making sure that there’s vehicle to vehicle communication so that if these vehicle slows this one automatically slows so the convoy’s really efficient.”

The TEV Project has a partnership contract to work along with academics at Newcastle University who are carrying out detailed research and development work on the project. The TEV lane work at the university is being led by Professor Volker Pickert, head of the electrical power group at the university, who manages a team of 100 researchers. A PHD student and an undergraduate are working full time on the TEV project.

Caroline Jones Carrick says that the academics have recently produced two research papers, one of them on optimising the convoys.

The research team will go on in the next few months to develop a static prototype of the project, which will then be followed by the development of a dynamic one.

Jones Carrick says that it is too early for the TEV Project to have done detailed cost modelling. But, she says: “If you had a really simple stretch of road, best case scenario we had an estimate that came in at US$1.6m which if you compare that with traditional motorways is astonishingly inexpensive. I do like to caveat that though, realistically you would be implementing in all sorts of terrain, curves, things that rack up costs. So that costing is very much best case scenario.”

Caroline Jones Carrick says that the TEV project could fit in well with government’s policy vision for the future. “The big challenge is electrification of road transport here and that’s a tough one. Scotland’s being pretty ambitious about when it wants to phase out new internal combustion engine cars – in 2032.

“How are you going to get everyone into EVs instead, how are you going to make sure they’re chargeable, how are you going to make sure the grid can handle the power required by all those cars charging at any given time. So TEV is part of the answer to that.”

While the TRV system envisaged would have dynamic charging in the road, in practical terms charging points for cars would still be needed. “Because you could be someone who has an electric vehicle who doesn’t spend enough time on long distance roads to keep your car regularly charged so you might still want to have a charging point at your house.”

So is the future not one where people would own their own cars but where they would call up one of a fleet of share publicly or privately provided driverless cars which would take you on to a TEV lane on a motorway if you were wanting to travel a longer distance?

Jones Carrick says: “Part of what you’re talking about there depends on how far the technology goes with self-driving vehicles. I really think you could have car sharing and ride sharing like you have with Uber –Uber is itself trying to bring in self-driving cars so that they don’t have to have drivers.

“If you move towards that you will always have people who, if they can afford it, will have private cars but if these cars are driving themselves you might find you could get in a car there rather than your car. If the car drives you where you want to go, you don’t really care whether it’s yours or not, although you might be subscribing to a certain level of car like an executive transport or saloon or whatever.

“That car gets you where you want to go and another car will come and get you and take you back when you want it on demand with an app, much as Uber works now, but these cars are electric and they’re driverless.”

But there are some like David Watt, the executive director of IoD Scotland, who argue that in reality a car is a bit of a person’s own personal space and that is something that they will not want to give up. Jones Carrick says: “I am sure there are people like him who feel strongly that way, I can think of a few.

“The difficulty for me with that is I’m not one of them, despite the fact that I’ve got three children and it is convenient to have all their gubbins in the boot where I’m going.”

She believes that technology will help to lead in the direction of more shared cars or shared rides rather than a household having its own car or cars in the drive. She says:

“When I hired a car last in the States, I took my Apple phone, I plugged it into the Apple interface, and the interface automatically comes up through the screen on the dash from my phone. The satnav is my satnav, I’m used to it. It knows my regular places. I’m directing it through voice.

“My music, my Spotify playlist, its all there. I can play my kids’ lullabies. They’re sitting in the back and they’re falling asleep on the drive. In a totally unfamiliar car, my personal space has been transported into it. I really think that with technology we’ll find that more and more, we’ll be able to customise our environment so quickly with gadgets that if you want your personal bubble, it will feel like that, unless there is someone else in it and you’re car sharing to save money.”

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

M25 smart motorway scheme between A3 and M40 junctions in ‘preliminary design’

Highways England estimates the cost to be between £335.5m and £478.9m

Plans to convert the M25 between the A3 and M40 junctions into a “smart” motorway are in the preliminary design stage.

Highways England, which manages the smart motorway projects, says the designs should be completed by late spring.

The agency estimates the cost of the project to be between £335.5 million and £478.9 million, with a start date of 2020/21.

It says the section between Junction 10 A3 and Junction 16 M40 has two-way traffic flows of more than 200,000 vehicles a day, the highest on its strategic road network. The amount of traffic results in “frequent congestion and severe delays” for road users.

Highways England says: “The government announced that its preferred solution was for a smart motorway with all-lane running at junctions 15 M4 to 16 M40 and also at junctions 10 A3, 11 Chertsey and 12 M3.

“This means the existing hard shoulder would be converted into a traffic lane providing five lanes for traffic at junctions 15 to 16 and four lanes elsewhere.

“Regular refuge areas are available in place of the hard shoulder for emergency use.”

As part of plans for the new third runway at Heathrow the airport proposes to build a tunnel for the M25 between junctions 14 Heathrow and 15 M4.

Heathrow aims to move the carriageway 150 metres west of its current site and lower it seven metres into a tunnel.

A spokesman for Highways England said officers are working with the airport and other schemes in the M25 south west quadrant.

He said: “The M25 smart motorway design activities started before the government made its decision on Heathrow so we are aware that a small part of the smart motorway design, around Junction 14, may become redundant depending on the future design of Heathrow.

“The remainder of the smart motorway scope remains unchanged by the airport expansion.”

Highways England is currently preparing a planning application for the redevelopment of the M25 junction with the A3. It says it will submit a development consent order to the planning inspectorate in “early 2019”. If granted work will start in 2020/21.

Highways England has already converted the M3 between Junction 2 M25 and Junction 4a Farnborough into a smart motorway. The project took more than two years to complete and cost £174 million.

It has attracted criticism from motorway users. Paul Mayhew, from Walton, was one of many people to contact Surrey Live. He said: “No hard shoulder at all is potentially lethal, and the overhead signage is badly utilised and managed… drivers have little faith in it.”

The M23 is being currently being converted into a smart motorway, between junctions 8 M25 and 10 Crawley.

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

Green light for Hull’s £42m tidal flood defence scheme

Construction of a multi-million pound scheme to protect thousands of homes and businesses in Hull from flooding from the Humber has been given the go ahead.

The £42 million flood alleviation scheme, approved by Hull’s planning committee earlier this month on the fifth anniversary of the tidal surge that caused devastation the city, has now had final sign off from the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Led by the Environment Agency, the Humber Hull Frontage Improvement Scheme will upgrade tidal flood defences at eight locations along the estuary foreshore, including at St Andrew’s Quay and Victoria Dock Village.

The fully government funded flood defences, which will see more than 7 kilometres of tidal flood defences along the Humber estuary improved, will provide a 1 in 200 year standard of protection and will reduce tidal risk for 113,000 homes and businesses.

The design of the flood defences will include some areas of glass panels to maintain a view of the waterfront.

The £42 million investment links to a further £16 million investment in tidal flood defences either side of Hull at Paull and Hessle, which is being delivered by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

Now that the planning application has been approved, preliminary work is due to start at St Andrew’s Quay Retail Park early this year. The scheme will be delivered by contractor BMM JV – a joint venture between BAM Nuttall and Mott MacDonald – and is expected to be completed by March 2021.

Allan Rogers, framework director for BMM JV said:

“Having a role in this significant flood alleviation scheme is inspiring for our teams. We are delighted to be at the heart of the design and efficient delivery of schemes through water engineering and management (WEM), and contributing to the Environment Agency’s target of protecting homes and business’ across England.”


Both the Humber Hull Frontage and work by East Riding of Yorkshire Council at Hessle and Paull are part of a number of tidal flood alleviation projects that form part of the Humber Flood Risk Management Strategy.

The Environment Agency and local partners are now in the process of developing an advanced approach to managing flooding in tidal areas by the River Humber for the next 100 years.

In addition to the work on the Humber frontage, more than £100 million is being invested in river and surface water flooding in Hull and the surrounding area.

In the past 65 years, there have been three major tidal events in Hull, the last was in December 2013 when 264 properties were flooded due to the overtopping of the existing defences. During high tides, water levels have the potential to rise to around 1 – 3m above some parts of the city.

Newark roadside residents among 40,000 benefitting from quieter roads

People living near the busy A1 in Nottinghamshire are among 40,000 roadside residents getting used to a quieter life thanks to a major noise reduction initiative.

Highways England has pledged to reduce noise levels for people living in over 1,000 areas close to motorways and major A roads by spring 2020 by installing noise barriers, providing free double glazing and laying new quieter road surfaces.

A 600-metre-long noise barrier close to the village of North Muskham, near Newark, is the latest structure to be installed as part of the scheme. The three-metre-high barrier has been adopted by the local community after villagers decided to plant 150 shrubs in front of it.

North Muskham Parish Council Chair, Ian Harrison said:

“The residents in North Muskham have been pressing for this for some years. The completion provides a real difference to the volume of A1 traffic noise experienced especially by nearby residents.

“Some residents also requested that foliage be replanted to provide better aesthetic views and an environment for birds and other wildlife so the parish council made the request and we are grateful for the positive response.”

Highways England has a £39 million special fund to reduce noise levels for people living close to motorways and major A roads, which includes installing noise barriers in areas where they are likely to have a significant benefit for local communities.

The organisation has also installed free double glazing at more than 600 homes, and laid quieter surfacing on over 6,000 miles of lanes on motorways and major A roads since 2015 – equivalent to resurfacing the entire M6 three times over.

Quieter surfacing is now installed as standard wherever possible on the roads managed by Highways England. The smoother and thinner top layer can help make roads significantly quieter than traditional road surfaces.

Ian Holmes, Principal Noise Advisor at Highways England, said:

“Around four million drivers travel on our roads every day but they impact many millions more – whether that’s businesses relying on long-distance deliveries or families in opposite ends of the country being able to get together for special occasions.

“Our roads also have an impact on the people who live near them and I’m pleased we’ve been able to reduce traffic noise levels for over 40,000 roadside residents since 2015 as part of our noise reduction schemes.

“It’s great to see that the new noise barrier we’ve installed in North Muskham in Nottinghamshire is proving popular with residents, and I’m sure the new shrubs they’ve planted will help make it pretty as well as practical.”

Last year Highways England won the ‘Silent Approach’ category at the Noise Abatement Society’s annual awards ceremony in London for its work to reduce noise levels for over 40,000 roadside residents since 2015.

The awards recognise organisations which are judged to have been outstanding in their efforts to both reduce the impact of noise and seek to pioneer practical and innovative solutions.

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

New year upgrade for Manchester motorway link

One of Manchester’s key motorway link roads is in line for a new year upgrade to make journeys smoother and safer for the 90,000 drivers who use it every day.

Highways England is improving a two-mile stretch of the M56, known as the Sharston Link, between junction 3 of the M60 at Cheadle and junction 3a of the M56 at Wythenshawe.

The five-week project, which is due to start on Wednesday 9 January, includes resurfacing the entire route, repairing sections of the carriageway, replacing road markings, and installing new reflective road studs and traffic sensors. Repair work will also be carried out on a bridge which carries the motorway over a railway line.

Most of the work will take place overnight to keep disruption to the minimum, with diversions in place when sections of the motorway need to be closed.

Two weekend closures will also be needed to carry out structural repairs to the motorway. Highways England has scheduled the closures to take place on two of the quietest weekends of the year for motorway traffic, when there are no home matches for Manchester United or Manchester City.


Rob Williams, project manager at Highways England, said:

“The upgrade we’re planning for the M56 will result in much smoother and safer journeys for the rest of 2019 and beyond.

“We’re doing everything we can to minimise disruption but will need to close parts of the motorway during two weekends for major road reconstruction work.

“We’ve chosen two of the quietest weekends of the year to carry out the work but are still advising drivers to allow extra time for their journeys, especially if they’re heading to Manchester Airport for a winter getaway.”

The first weekend closure will take place on the eastbound carriageway between 9pm on Friday 11 January and 5am on Monday 14 January. A second closure is being planned on the westbound carriageway during the last weekend in January but this will be postponed if next week’s FA Cup draw results in a home match being played by Manchester City or Manchester United during that weekend.

The diversion route for the weekend closures will take drivers along the M60 to turn around at junction 5 as well as on the A5103 Princess Parkway.

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

Sustainable drainage regulations come into force in Wales

Regulations for Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDs) for new property developments in Wales came into force yesterday.

The mandatory regulations introduced by the Welsh Government will help reduce flood risk and improve water quality.

From now on:

  • All new developments of more than 1 house or where the construction area is 100m2 or more, will require sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) for managing surface water.
  • Drainage systems for all new developments must be designed and built in accordance with statutory SuDS standards.
  • Local authorities will become the SuDS Approving Body (SAB).

SuDS schemes must be approved by the local authority acting in its SAB role before construction work begins. The SAB will have a duty to adopt compliant SuDS so long as it is built and functions in accordance with the approved proposals, including any SAB conditions of approval.

According to the Welsh Assembly, the regulations will also help to ensure that “environmental standards are maintained and improved in a post-Brexit world”, with the issue of flooding addressed in an environmentally friendly way through sustainable methods.

Surface runoff water can be a major source of pollution, both directly and from overwhelmed sewers discharging into rivers. Further benefits from the regulations include improving the surrounding wildlife and biodiversity and helping to reduce pollution on new housing developments through the use of effectively designed and constructed SuDS. SuDS are designed to reduce surface water runoff and improve water quality while being more resilient and longer lasting than conventional drainage.

Around 163,000 properties in Wales are at risk of surface water flooding and employing sustainable drainage systems is estimated to reduce flood damage by up to 30%.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said:

“Flooding can have a devastating impact on home owners and it is important that every effort is made to protect houses and limit the damage caused by surface water flooding.

“Last year saw several instances of severe flooding in Wales highlighting the importance of introducing measures to combat the challenges faced by climate change.

“We hope that these regulations will have a positive impact for future generations and help ensure Wales maintains its high environmental standards post-Brexit.”

In October 2018 the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee criticised the Government’s decision not to include mandatory-requirements on urban green infrastructure and SuDS in all new developments.

Yorkshire Water invests almost £8m in two wastewater treatment works

Yorkshire Water is starting two schemes of investment worth £7.7 million at two wastewater treatment works in north Yorkshire.

The company is spending £5.2m at its Thirsk and £2.5m at Bedale Wastewater Treatment Works to improve the quality of water returned to the local water courses, Bedale Beck and Cod Beck, after treatment.

The spend is part of a £70m investment from Yorkshire Water to improve 196km of water courses across the county to meet new environmental targets on phosphorus removal.

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plant growth but when a water body becomes overly enriched it can lead to excessive plant and algae growth that can lead to oxygen depletion in water.

Yorkshire Water Communications Advisor Mark Allsop said:

“This work will build on Yorkshire Water’s vision for Taking Responsibility for the Water Environment for Good. We’re committed to doing everything we can to improve our local environment and by completing this work we’ll exceed our target to reduce phosphorus and ensure the water we return to the environment is of the highest quality and deliver significant environmental benefits, and in particular to aquatic life.”

A further £2.3 million scheme is already under way to lay a new sewer pipe from Bagby to Thirsk WwTW which will also help improve the quality of the water in Cod Beck as Bagby WwTW is decommissioned.

First year of drone programme delivers £750k efficiency savings for Severn Trent

In the first year of use since Severn Trent made the strategic decision to invest in the use of drone technology, the water company’s fleet of drones are generating huge savings in time and through improved efficiencies, as well as significant health and safety benefits.

The drone industry expanding at an exponential rate as sectors start to unlock the potential that UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) offer. The utilities industry in particular has embraced the drone revolution – partnering with Commercial Drone Experts COPTRZ has seen Severn Trent make savings of over £750,000 in the first year alone.

In their second year, they are expecting to double this figure, with more savings beyond that. Other utility companies have found similar savings, and this is expected to grow as the technology develops.

By using their UAV drone fleet to carry out the unmanned inspection work, Seven Trent has removed the need for scaffolding, enabling them to save time and increase safety for their staff who no longer need undertake physical inspections.

Duncan Turner, Severn Trent’s Drone Team Lead said:

“It’s been an incredibly exciting time to be involved with UAV’s at Severn Trent. It feels like we are at the forefront of innovation which is unlocking new ways of working within the business using this cutting edge robotics technology. With our customers at the heart of what we do we can pass on the saving making sure our customers’ bills remain low and are helping to keep our water Wonderful on Tap.”

COPTRZ was formed in 2016 and provides specialist services to the commercial UAV market to help businesses to access the benefits of drone technology. COPTRZ are working with some of the largest utilities companies in the UK, including Severn Trent and Thames Water.

Steve Coulson, Founder and Managing Director at COPTRZ, commented:

“It’s great to see more companies seeing the benefit that drone technology can have for them and their business. Not only do they save money, but they also save time and improve safety. This example is only one of many, and I’m sure in the future there will be a huge number of companies that decide to make the small immediate investment, to unlock the huge savings potential moving forward.”£750k-efficiency-savings-for-severn-trent