Welsh Water to restore reservoir to its C19th natural state

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water has recently started work on a project to restore the reservoir at Lower Neuadd, Powys, closer to its former, natural course dating back to Victorian times.

The reservoir is no longer needed as a water resource, so the company will instead modify the existing dam to allow the water to flow naturally through the valley.


As part of the 12-month project, a public footpath and new bridge will be installed to allow locals and visitors to continue to enjoy the walking area – with the existing footpath diverted while the work is carried out. Any area where work is carried out – including the work to the dam – will be restored to ensure the beauty of the local area is maintained and provide an improved natural ecological habitat.

Water levels in the reservoir are currently being steadily reduced to ensure the work is undertaken safely. The company are working closely with Natural Resources Wales and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority to ensure it causes the least disruption possible to local wildlife and habitat.

As part of this, the water company has ensured fish have been moved to a new habitat.  This will be monitored throughout and, by removing a significant barrier to fish and restoring the downstream passage of sediment, the work will have major benefits to habitat connectivity on the Taf Fechan.

Nick Parkin, Welsh Water’s Head of Dam Safety said:

“Lower Neuadd Reservoir has played a part in supplying fresh clean water to customers for many years but is no longer part of our water resource plan. To keep the dam and ensure that it conforms to the latest guidance and regulations, would use a lot of the resources we need to keep our essential reservoirs in tip-top condition.”

“As such, it has been agreed that Lower Neuadd will be restored to its natural state. You will see our teams working hard throughout the summer on site, which will allow the water to run through the valley, just as it did before the dam was built back in 1884.”


Suffolk pothole repair scheme to go countywide

A trial scheme to swiftly tackle potholes has been so successful it is being rolled out across Suffolk, highways chiefs have confirmed.

The Suffolk Highways scheme, which started in Ipswich in October, changes how potholes are categorised.

The new system allows engineers to repair potholes close to each other during the same visit, tackling smaller potholes before they can expand.

Previously they fixed larger holes first and smaller ones at a later date.

The new policy reduces the amount of time workers have to travel between jobs, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Mary Evans, cabinet member for highways on Suffolk County Council, said the scheme would be rolled out permanently across the county this summer.

She said the previous system had been “incredibly complicated”, leading to highways workers complaining that they were “driving over potholes to get to potholes”.

Mrs Evans said: “The rate you pay the gangs is the same whatever they do, and the material they put in the pothole is the same, so the efficiency savings comes from the travel time.

“I am really pleased – it’s about looking at ways the system can be more efficient.”

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

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Bristol’s MetroWest scheme receives final £32m funding from DfT

The DfT has announced its backing for the MetroWest railway line between Portishead and Bristol after confirming the final £32m funding for the “nationally-significant” project.

The Portishead branch line shut in 1964, but is now part of a project aiming to reopen the line to passenger services by 2021 – with the project needing to plug a total funding gap of £116m.

Now, the final £31.9m of funding has been announced by the transport secretary after a meeting with local government leaders in the region, paving the way for the £116m project.

MetroWest Phase 1 is being led by North Somerset Council (NSC) and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), with a ‘development consent order’ due to be submitted to the government in July.

The Portishead rail branch line will see two new stations at Portishead and at Pill, and also includes improvements to passenger services along the Severn Beach and Bristol to Bath lines.

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Head of transport and infrastructure at NSC, Colin Medus, said: “The Portishead Rail scheme is a nationally-significant project that will open-up the rail network to thousands of people across the region and will help relieve congestion during the rush hour periods.

“We are committed to investing in the infrastructure of our area and this government funding is the news we have been waiting for. MetroWest Phase 1 is firmly on track for delivering rail services fit for the future of our region.”

West of England mayor Tim Bowles commented: “This is excellent news for the region as we continue to work on our ambitious MetroWest rail plan, which will help build a transport network that works for everyone.”

A previous funding bid was rejected by the government in 2018, and the new commitment of £31.9m comes alongside £15m invested by North Somerset Council and additional funding from the Local Growth Fund and Economic Development Fund.

NSC leader Nigel Ashton said he was “delighted” to announce the funding after many years of campaigning, and said the Portishead line is “vital for the town, North Somerset and the region.”


A120 Little Hadham bypass to benefit from £27.4million contribution

The A120 Little Hadham bypass is to benefit from a contribution of up to £27.4million from the Department of Transport.

Hertfordshire County Council has worked in partnership with the Environmental Agency to develop the A120 Little Hadham bypass and flood alleviation scheme.

On Thursday, roads minister Jesse Norman, confirmed that the Department of Transport will provide three quarters of the funding for the bypass along the A120 between Bishop’s Stortford and the A10.

The project has a total cost of £39.58million and once complete, the route is expected to cut local journey times by a third, reduce congestion and improve air quality in the centre of the village.

The new 3.9km bypass, to the north of Little Hadham, will alleviate congestion from The Ash traffic lights, and could decrease journey times for regular users by nearly an hour a week.

New road embankments along the River Ash and Albury Tributary will act as flood defences to reduce risk to the village and other nearby communities.

Changes to the road infrastructure also hope to bring  improved transport links to Stansted Airport and boost the local economy.

Mr Norman said: “Investment in local roads cuts travel time, boosts business, and can improve air quality by cutting congestion.

“This new bypass will significantly benefit both road users and residents in and around Little Hadham as well as across Hertfordshire.”

The Government funding was secured through Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s strategic economic plan and forms part of a wider funding package with the county council and Environment Agency.

Phil Bibby, Hertfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and the environment, said: “This funding from the Department of Transport is hugely significant.

“The A120 connects the A10 to Bishop’s Stortford and Stansted Airport, so this is an important scheme for what is a vital transport link in the county.

“The bypass, and flood alleviation scheme, will help to support the growth we’re expecting in Hertfordshire over the coming years, making a big difference to our road network, while also improving the quality of life for residents in the Little Hadham area.”

Head of infrastructure and regeneration at Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Adam Wood, added: “The A120 is a vital east-west link in Hertfordshire’s already congested road network.

“This bypass will significantly reduce journey times along the route.

“It is important, when we are faced with such unprecedented growth, that we put in the right infrastructure now to support our places, people and businesses.”

Work will start in June and is scheduled to open in autumn 2020.

Civil engineering company GRAHAM has been appointed to build the bypass.

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

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Unravelling the water quality paradox – complex challenge on horizon for utilities

A complex water quality challenge is on the horizon for utilities as more becomes known about micro-pollutants, customers acquire the means to carry out analysis at the kitchen tap and the downward pressure on cost remains.

BlueTech Research chief executive Paul O’Callaghan captures viewpoints from some of the industry leaders taking part in next week’s BlueTech Forum taking place in London.

Paul O’Callaghan: The nineteenth century techniques that have defined water treatment in cities and towns across the developed world may be reaching their expiry date. Based on the concept of removing pathogens from water and filtering solids, these processes have kept populations healthy for decades and facilitated urban growth, but they fail to take into account the myriad chemicals now entering water sources and being identified in drinking water.

Professor Shane Snyder, executive director of the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute in Singapore will participate in a roundtable on the water quality paradox at BlueTech Forum, which takes place in London, 5-6 June. He says:

“The world’s water supplies will be continually taxed by emerging contaminants,” substances that were unknown – or that little was known about – until recently.”


Urbanisation, population growth and climate change are all impacting on these changes to the aquatic environment. Snyder, who has testified before US Congress on the disruptive effects of pharmaceuticals in water, also says the regulatory environment is “antiquated” and the speed at which new chemicals are entering the market “is much faster than our ability to calculate the water safety levels.”

He says that with today’s technologies anything is detectable, but the presence of trace chemicals may not mean that the water is unsafe. “It’s not going to be just hydrogen and oxygen,” he says. “There will always be various other substances, some of them helpful, some of them not.”

Chemical mix – assume everything is present including pathogens, micro-pollutants and metals?

Snyder also points out that chemicals do not occur individually:

“The exposure will always be mixtures of chemicals and that’s the other conundrum, regulations are assuming presence of one chemical, but the reality is that in water supplies there’s a mixture of contaminants or chemicals and in every water supply that mixture will be different. It’s breaking down our paradigms of how we would previously regulate water.”

Given that it would be impossible to regulate for all of these substances, the obvious approach would be for utilities to assume everything is present including pathogens, micro-pollutants and metals. A multi-barrier response could then be deployed combining conventional and advanced filtration and disinfection technologies to safeguard drinking water against pathogens and micro-contaminants.

The paradox is that shifting to a higher level of water treatment comes at a higher cost and a higher carbon footprint, which consumers are also unlikely to settle for. If consumer pressure continues to grow, one way of mitigating some of the whole-life cost of upgrading water treatment would be to go to direct potable water reuse, taking the discharge straight from the wastewater works to the drinking water treatment plant and treating it to this higher standard.

Historically wastewater treatment, a system that also dates back to the nineteenth century, has existed in isolation from water treatment. It has been vital to protecting the environment and water sources from pollution, but future urban water and energy demands mean the model needs reimagining to build resilience into watersheds.

Potable water reuse – critical for overall water resilience

Ralph Exton, chief commercial officer, Suez Water Technologies & Solutions, says potable water reuse plays straight into the debate on overall water resilience. “The ability to reuse water is critically important,” he says, “but there are still a lot of perception issues around whether that water’s safe.

“Reuse water goes through many more treatment stages and a lot more effort goes into analysis, yet people are more reluctant to drink the water. There’s a perception that it’s not as safe as the water drawn from naturally occurring sources.

“The reality is that in some parts of the world, those ‘naturally occurring’ waters have micropollutants that just haven’t been tested before. Once they’re tested for and found to be present in the water, then action needs to be taken anyway.”

Paolo Zacchi-Cossetti, director for open innovation at Xylem, is clear that technological advances in sensors and micro-pollutant detection means power is shifting from utilities to customers.

“A lot of low-cost sensors have been under development and companies like Spout and Orb have taken inspiration from the lead contamination issue in the water supplies of Flint, Michigan,” he says. “These low-cost portable devices can be used by consumers and provide a lot of information regarding the water you’re drinking.”

Zacchi-Cossetti cites figures from the city of Chicago where, following the lead contamination event in the water supply at Flint, Michigan, consumer demand for lead-testing of water supplies rose by 33,000%, and from Pittsburgh where the rise was 27,000%.

This has created real challenges for the utilities having to respond to this increasing demand. The risk is that better informed customers may demand higher quality water from their utility, even where the health benefit does not necessarily warrant it.

Public education – more information needed on micropollutants

Exton agrees that low-cost sensing is an important piece of the equation, but it has to go along with providing clear data and educating the public. In many cases the information available to educate the public on micropollutants just is not there, or it is not sufficient, or there has not been enough testing done to give assurance.

“Even a basic level of analysis will not necessarily be understood properly, let alone the more frequent, real-time data that is becoming available,” he says. “Without the education and communication piece, you could be creating more of a problem than you have today.”

Professor Snyder believes the public would feel more secure about their drinking water if it was screened using bioassays, an analytical method to determine concentration or potency of a substance by looking at its effect on living cells or tissues.

“The area I’ve studied most is the use of in vitro bioassays to test the water and determine how human cells respond to the mixture of chemicals present,” he says. “I don’t think that alone will help us say ‘safe’ or ‘not safe’, but it will surely help us prioritise what we should be looking for.

“This technique has been used in medicine for a very long time and I think it’s what we desperately need in water.”

Looking forward to the water quality roundtable he is participating in at BlueTech Forum, Professor Snyder says he welcomes the debate:

“The last time I checked, there were about 15,000 new chemicals registered every day of the week, whereas the US Environmental Protection Agency regulates just 90 compounds. As I always say, what’s the better answer? Is there a better way to do this? If so, we’d love to hear.”

BlueTech Forum 2019 takes place on 5-6 June at Kew Gardens, London, UK. Professor Shane Snyder and Paolo Zacchi-Cossetti will host a thought-leadership roundtable on the water quality paradox. Ralph Exton will host a roundtable on resource recovery. Paul O’Callaghan will deliver the opening address on water market developments and evolving technologies. To register visit www.bluetechforum.com.


Network Rail signs first Heritage Partnership Agreement

Network Rail has signed its first Heritage Partnership Agreement, improving the management of “architectural gem” London King’s Cross.

Network Rail, Camden Council and heritage public body Historic England have signed a Heritage Partnership Agreement (HPA) to ensure the efficient future management of the nationally significant site.

The arrangement will streamline the formal listed building consent process, making it easier to make minor improvements to the station.

It comes amid a major, multi-million pound investment in the infrastructure at King’s Cross that will significantly improve train travel to and from London on the East Coast Main Line.

Only then can Camden Council grant Listed Building Consent to the changes. Thanks to the HPA, we will also save time and money.

An architectural gem

Councillor Danny Beales, Camden Council Cabinet Member for investing in communities and an inclusive economy, said: “Camden is rich with architectural gems, including King’s Cross Station, one of the best-known locations within the borough.

“The station will now benefit from the clear approach set out in the Heritage Partnership Agreement and the council’s desire to protect all our historical buildings, whilst facilitating the changes that these working buildings require.”

Tom Higginson, director of Planning and Land Services for Network Rail, said: “We are always looking for ways we can run the station more efficiently and this agreement, which is a first for Network Rail, is a perfect example of that.

“We have worked incredibly closely with Historic England and Camden Council and this agreement will save all of us time, which can now be spent in other areas, and means that passengers can benefit from improvements to the station more quickly.

“This will also help to reduce our costs, which is incredibly important to us as a tax-payer funded organisation.”

The HPA signs at London King’s Cross

What’s an HPA?

Statutory HPAs were introduced in 2013 because of reform powers from the government to help manage change efficiently while maintaining a site’s special qualities.

King’s Cross joins a handful of statutory HPAs, including Stow Maries Airfield in Essex, Battersea Power Station in London and the University of Sussex.

The agreement at King’s Cross is a pioneering project that Historic England hopes will inspire similar sites to consider it as an option for sound, efficient heritage management.


Highways England unveils plan to link Midlands’ motorways

Highways England has launched a six-week public consultation on its plan to link two major motorways in the Midlands.

The proposal for a motorway link between M54 and the M6 is expected by Highways England to ease congestion by around 22,000 vehicles a day from the A460.

“An enhanced connection between the M54 and M6 would significantly improve customer journeys from east to west and north to south. This will support local growth for Telford, Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton, Cannock and Tamworth,” according to Higways England.

The current direct link from the M54 to the M6 is the A460, which passes through the villages of Featherstone in Staffordshire and Shareshill in Wolverhampton. But the A460 suffers significant congestion and high accident rates due to large traffic volumes.

At present, the M54 merges with the M6 southbound at junction 10a, which means northbound road users must leave the motorway network and take other routes to connect with the M6.

However, completion of the project will see a new two-lane dual carriageway link road between M54 junction 1 and M6 junction 11 and an improved junction arrangement at M54 junction 1 and M6 junction 11..

Highways England senior project manager Graham Littlechild said: “Since we chose the preferred route, we have been working with key stakeholders to address concerns raised and design the scheme further. We are now keen to speak to people to see what they think of our plans. It is important that people have their say as this feedback will help us shape the final design.

“Once completed, the scheme will also relieve traffic congestion on the A460, A449 and A5, improve safety and support economic growth for the Midlands.”

Midlands Connect, a sub-national transport body which recommends transport projects for the Midlands region, is also supporting the development of the M54-M6 link road and has included it in its list of priority projects for completion.

Midlands Connect director Maria Machancoses said: “This scheme is a potential game-changer for the Midlands motorway network. It will make both short and long-distance journeys quicker and less congested, benefiting both the regional and national economy.

“Our partners in Telford & Wrekin, Staffordshire, Birmingham, the Black Country and Shropshire agree that this is one of the Midlands’ most important infrastructure priorities, and we are pleased that the project is reaching the consultation stage, where the essential views of residents, businesses and commuters will be heard.”

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

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