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.

‘Smart’ crossings for A418 Oxford Road

Three ‘smart’ pedestrian crossings will be installed in Oxford Road, Aylesbury, during the next three months.

They will replace crossings outside the TA Centre, at Mill Way, and outside Aylesbury College. They will co-ordinate with each other, and with the Fowler Road junction lights when they are upgraded, and will be integrated into the Aylesbury traffic network to improve traffic flows across the town.

The new ‘intelligent’ crossings form part of Buckinghamshire County Council’s £2.69 million improvement plan to improve traffic flow and journey time reliability on the busy stretch of the A418 Oxford Road.

Work, which will take three weeks at each location, starts at Mill Way on Monday 27 January to replace the crossing and connect it to new control system cabinets. Installation then moves to the college crossing, starting on Monday 17 February, followed by the TA Centre crossing, beginning on Monday 9 March.

The majority of the work will be done with off-peak low speed lane closures between 9.30am and 3.30pm with some night work to complete each crossing.

While work is going on at Mill Way crossing, pedestrians will be advised to use the nearby crossing outside the TA Centre. When work starts outside the college, a temporary staggered crossing will be created opposite Bearbrook Close.

The full improvement scheme, covering the section of Oxford Road from Coldharbour Way roundabout to the roundabout at the junction with Friarage Road, includes:

  • Junction improvements
  • Pedestrian crossing upgrades
  • ‘Smart’ traffic lights that adapt to traffic flows
  • New stretches of cycleway and footway
  • Real time passenger information
  • New double-length bus shelter outside Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School

Work was recently completed on new sections of shared footway and cycleway to Aylesbury’s Gemstone cycleways: Ruby Way and Pearl Way have been joined between Mill Way and Gatehouse Road, and Pearl Way and Pebble Way are linked by Pearson Close.

Widening nearly 100yds (90m) of Fowler Road, to provide a left-turn lane into Oxford Road towards the town centre, is progressing this week (w/b 13 January) with the repositioning of kerblines.

Mark Shaw, County Council Deputy Leader and Transport Cabinet Member, said Oxford Road was an important route into and out of Aylesbury, which attracted a high volume of traffic, causing congestion and delay at peak times.

“We’re investing in this scheme to improve the reliability of journey times by reducing congestion and delay, and that’s got to be good for residents, businesses and commuters alike,” said Mark. “I appreciate the work will cause temporary inconvenience and I hope people will bear with us while we make these improvements.”

The scheme budget is made up of a £2.191m bid from the Government’s National Productivity Investment Fund, and developer funding of £500,000.

Find out which roads could receive a £10million upgrade

Rawtenstall’s roads could be in line for a £10million-plus upgrade.

On Thursday, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the submission of an expression of interest’ to the Department for Transport’s new Local Pinch Point Fund.

It would ask for £9.25million to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of St Mary’s Way including the gyratory system ­— a signal controlled junction system ­— which officers identify as a blackspot for traffic congestion.

The proposal has been welcomed by Cllr Andy MacNae, one of Rawtenstall’s representatives on Rossendale Borough Council.

The report to senior councillors also requests approval of a local contribution of between £1.5m and £2m towards the scheme, should the submission be successful.

The government fund has £150million available for local highways authorities to bid for spending between 2021 and 2023. They have until the end of the month to submit initial bids.

The report to cabinet says: “An exercise has been undertaken to identify locations that meet the criteria of the fund and, as a result of this exercise, St Mary’s Way including the gyratory in Rawtenstall town centre has been identified as the priority submission.

“The current configuration of the gyratory together with high traffic flows limits its effectiveness and limits connectivity across Rossendale borough and with neighbouring areas. It also results in unreliable journey times for buses.

“Investment in the gyratory will be aimed at alleviating current congestion, improving journey times and improving road safety.

“The improvements will also be aimed at reducing harmful emissions.”

Hareholme ward’s Cllr MacNae said: “We have been pushing for investment in roads in the town for a long time.

“The gyratory roundabout in the middle of Rawtenstall is very difficult for pedestrians and cyclists and suffers severe traffic congestion at peak times.

“With all the housing planned for the town, things are only going to get worse. I welcome this bid and will support it. The only question is whether it is ambitious and big enough.”


Smart Motorways could see major upgrades in 2020

SMART motorway networks may get radical upgrades in 2020 as Highways England could be set to build more emergency lay-bys for broken down cars. The plans will reduce the space between the refuge areas from below the current 1 mile spacing in an attempt to boost road safety.

Smart motorway refuge areas are currently placed around one mile apart and offer a safe area for motorists to park in the event of car failure. However, Highways England may install more of these across the network after a series of accidents involving cars which have broken down on live motorways lanes.

Smart motorway networks do not have a designated hard shoulder and several motorists have been known to break down in the firing line of road traffic.

The RAC has urged the group to install extra emergency refuse bays to reduce the risk to road users and this could now be implemented after incidents last year.

Eight-year-old Dev Naran was killed when a lorry hit his father’s broken down vehicle on a busy M6 motorway lane in August 2017.

Four people were also killed in just ten months across one stretch of smart motorway built on the popular M1 motorway.

In another method to reduce deaths across smart motorway networks, the group have committed to introducing cutting-edge technology to identify any parked car.

According to the Telegraph, Highways England has pledged to bring in methods to spot stationary vehicles on live motorway lanes to improve safety.

The group is also set to be planning a range of publicity campaigns including an informative guide on what to do in an emergency and how to react if motorists see a red X above a lane.

Highways England could also be set to introduce stronger penalties for motorists who drive in closed smart motorway lanes in a safety crackdown.

Road users currently receive a £100 and up to three penalty points for using a closed motorway lane despite the severe risks.

A red X means the lane is shut for an upcoming hazard and those who use these lanes could be putting themselves at risk.

However, a recent survey by the RAC revealed over one-fifth of motorists have ignored a red X sign in the past year and continue to use a lane even when it is closed.

The poll also revealed half of motorists had regularly seen other road users disobeying the road signs despite 99 percent able to understand what the image meant.

The building of smart motorway networks is also set to be restricted in 2020 after Highways England confirmed no more dynamic lane schemes would be built.

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said this was because the road networks were too complicated.

The chief even claimed the safety of the scheme may not have been properly considered when the plans were implemented.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a review into smart motorway networks in October.

It came after he admitted he was concerned about the smart motorway schemes as he knew people were dying on the roads.

In a statement, Highways Egland previously said: “The Transport Secretary has asked the Department for Transport to carry out, at pace, an evidence stocktake to gather the facts about smart motorway safety.

“We are committed to safety and are supporting the Department in its work on this.”

The review will likely see many additions to the smart motorway network in a desperate bid to improve safety on the roads.

Highways England have said the smart motorway schemes are safe comapred to other types of roads.

The group claims smart motorway lanes are three times safer than A roads and six times safer the single carriageway A roads.

£98m London contract win for FM Conway

Councils from Wandsworth and Richmond on Thames have awarded a £98M contract to infrastructure group FM Conway, for “major highway works”.

The scheme, which will include carriageway resurfacing, road markings and the delivery of public realm schemes, will last for seven years with a possible three-year extension. It is set to cost £98M.

FM Conway term maintenance director James Tallon said the contract win “demonstrates the strength of our term maintenance offer in the capital, which is underpinned by the skill and expertise of our great people delivering high-quality public realm and highways services. In addition to high quality delivery, our role is to work alongside both Councils, on advanced road safety initiatives to ensure the wellbeing of the communities we work in.”

FM Conway has a long history of working in the London borough of Wandsworth. The company was responsible for restoring Putney Bridge in 2015, and the company also has long-standing relationships with the London boroughs of Merton and Westminster.

The contract does not include work to Wandsworth Bridge, which is due for revamp to a tune of £4.5M.

Richmond and Wandsworth councils director of environment and community services Paul Chadwick added: “FM Conway’s demonstrable experience in road safety coupled with their commitment to continual improvement and investment will help us to deliver our road safety strategy, with highway and public realm improvements that contribute to the communities in both Wandsworth and Richmond boroughs.”

Richmond and Wandsworth councils share one staff structure, owing to an agreement between the two local authorities. Both councils, however, are independent of each-other in their governance.

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

Major street light trial to begin in Peterborough

A trial to dim street lights in Peterborough is set to begin.

After upgrading 17,000 street lights to energy-efficient LEDs in a £16 million project, the authority is going to dim street lights in residential areas by 20 per cent between 9pm and 5am as part of a trial which begins on Monday.

Moreover, traffic routes will see street lights dimmed by 20 per cent between 9pm and midnight, then by 40 per cent between midnight and 5am.

The council is arguing that the quality of the new lights means that residents will notice little to no difference, while the cash-strapped authority will save £100,000 a year.

The permanent dimming of the street lights has been included as part of the council’s latest budget proposals which will be voted on next week.

The proposals are expected to be approved, with the trial period taking place before any permanent change.

The trial will be city-wide and will not include subways. It is due to finish at the end of March 2020, and if it is deemed to be a success it will become permanent from the start of the new financial year in April.

The council said: “Due to the improved quality of LED lights a reduction of 20 per cent is not significant enough to be noticeable to the naked eye by the majority of people.

“A number of trials have been undertaken with both officers and councillors who have broadly observed that there is no significant difference to the lighting levels and the trials have been received positively.

“A number of other authorities have dimmed their lighting successfully with no issues and the above proposed regimes mirror those implemented by others.

“The council will need to liaise with key stakeholders to ensure that areas of concern are either monitored or programmed with amended regimes as necessary and plans to do this prior to and during the trial period January 2020.”

Time-saving road marking robot makes it a happy new year for drivers

A clever little robot is saving drivers on England’s busiest roads from hundreds of hours of disruption.

The quirky machine uses precise positioning technology to mark out where white lines need to be painted on new or resurfaced roads.

The robot has already saved hundreds of hours of working time on various Highways England projects across the country, including Britain’s biggest road upgrade, the £1.5 billion A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement.

It also recently pre-marked eight miles of the M6 in Staffordshire in four hours. This work would usually take two engineers over a week to complete.

Savings elsewhere include saving 27 hours of working time marking three miles of hard shoulder on the M4 in Berkshire, 77 hours covering five miles of the M6 in Warwickshire, and six hours working on two miles of the M1 in Leicestershire, with further work done on the M60 smart motorway at Manchester.

Besides helping drivers, it also has safety benefits for roadworkers and enables them to focus on completing other essential work on each project.

Julian Lamb, construction director on the A14 where the robot has been used, said:

“We’re always looking at innovative new ways of working, which can help road users, and make our projects more efficient while supporting improved engineering. With safety our top priority, the time savings the robot can provide, coupled with removing our operatives from a potentially hazardous situation, make it a great solution.

“We’ve also been working with a self-driving dumper truck on the project, completing trials of these new technologies to help Highways England more deliver its ambitious programme of roads improvement quickly, safely and efficiently. These technologies are also supporting new jobs, with the engineers of tomorrow needing to learn new skills such as programming this autonomous equipment.”

Ordinarily, pre-marking road markings is a time-consuming job, calculating the positioning of the markings and walking several miles to spray or chalk them on the road. By using the robot, road workers spend far less time in the road and are at less risk of an accident – around 250 drivers illegally drive into roadworks every month, putting workers’ lives at risk. Bending down to pre-mark roads by hand can also raise the risk of back injuries. The robot also boasts improved accuracy and can mark the road faster.

The robot has been so successful, specialist contractor WJ, who adopted the technology for it to complete the pre-marking, has now invested in a second one to help complete more of its work. By completing roadworks faster, the robot will help contribute to the goals of reducing congestion, improving journey times, and supporting economic growth, while cost savings can be used to provide more or better-quality road-building materials.

Wayne Johnston, WJ Group Managing Director, said:

“I am passionate about changing the way we work in this industry and the WJ Robotic PreMarker represents a real step change. However, it is just a starting point, we will continue to invest in research and development to find better, more efficient and safer ways of working.”

The 12-mile Huntingdon Southern Bypass, which makes up around two thirds of the A14 upgrade, opened a year early, in December. Work on the rest of the project, between Swavesey and Milton, continues and is on schedule to completed as planned by December 2020.

For the latest information about the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme, including advance notification of road closures, visit www.highways.gov.uk/A14C2H follow @A14C2H on Twitter and like the scheme Facebook page at www.facebook.com/A14C2H/.