Highways networks are often local authorities’ biggest asset, yet in recent times councils across the UK have struggled with maintenance, trapped in a familiar cycle of inadequate funding and inefficient reactive repairs.
Funding cuts and a lack of investment in the local road network have resulted in the well documented highways network decline and maintenance backlog.
With short-term election cycles obstacles to long-term planning, making the case to elected members for asset renewal programmes has never been more challenging.
Highways authorities are therefore being required to embrace new technology and find increasingly innovative ways to emphasise the importance of maintaining resilient networks to help form accurate and cost-effective asset management plans.
Adopting an end-to-end approach to asset management-led network renewal is therefore key to a successful programme.
Understanding social impacts
For local authorities to secure support from politicians for new investment, it is critical that they begin to consider the socio-economic impact and outcomes of their assets. This includes demonstrating value and providing better customer and end-user outcomes.
A few years ago, Tarmac worked with Blackpool Council to help it make the case for significant investment to deliver a major renewal programme.
Using condition data mapped against a social impact matrix, elected members were able to see the state of key roads within their wards and the likely social and economic outcomes of a failing road near a school, hospital and the offices of a major employer, for example.
By showing how a well-maintained network was essential to supporting the council’s goal of delivering better social outcomes for its citizens, the case for funding was successfully made.
Driving data analysis
Data collection, digitally mapping assets and robust analyses can also be key to securing renewal programme investment.
Councils need to work with partners who can provide an accurate idea of target costs, as well as an understanding of materials that could be employed to ensure durable and cost-effective treatments for highways networks.
Having improved knowledge of an asset generates opportunities to make evidence-based decisions. This helps with day-to-day maintenance but also with long-term planning for the delivery of resilient and durable programmes.
Automated paving is an innovative technology that can help inform client asset management plans.
Sensors on paving and compaction equipment capture and record information about the quality of the installation during surfacing projects harvested from the construction process, from the type and temperature of materials used to the ambient weather conditions.
Once completed, the system matches GPS location data to generate an electronic construction and compaction record specific for each load.
The dataset is then mapped and accessible via software for analysis, providing a permanent record for the project and potentially significant opportunities for highways asset management.
An end-to-end approach
At Tarmac we believe that it is important to provide local authorities with an end-to-end approach to asset renewal.
Our programme, delivered in collaboration with highways data specialist, Gaist, and civil engineering consultancy specialising in asset management, Metis, includes providing comprehensive highways condition reports, data collection with advanced analysis and management support in developing a preventative maintenance model to combat network decline. It also provides guidance about the most appropriate forms of bespoke surfacing treatment.
Highways authorities are undoubtedly facing a perfect storm of network decline, reduced public funding, increased scrutiny and a need to embed greater resilience into our road networks. These factors mean that asset management-led renewal programmes are now not only critical but present great opportunities too.