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Logistics UK supports National Highways’ bold new approach to roadworks
Logistics UK has welcomed National Highways’ commitment to reduce the disruption caused by roadworks.
The government company is developing a series of measures designed to ensure more reliable journeys on the Strategic Road Network, which includes England’s busiest motorways and major A-roads.
COMPREHENSIVE PACKAGE OF MEASURES
This raft of measures will include an increase in the use of higher speed limits past work sites where it is safe to do so, clearer messaging for drivers, more effective diversion routes and a decluttering of the roadside.
INCREASE IN NUMBER OF FULL CLOSURES
National Highways will also consider an increase in the number of full closures of motorways and major A-roads to complete work on the network itself relatively quickly as an alternative to months and sometimes years of partial closures. This may mean building more structures off site, in many cases, and then lifting them onto the road itself.
The approach is designed to save taxpayer money and minimise the impact on local communities and drivers caused by major projects on the 4,300-mile network. National Highways argues it is also likely to lead to lower carbon emissions from construction equipment and minimise the risks to worker safety.
MEASURES ALREADY USED ON SELECTED SCHEMES
The measures are already being used in a limited number of schemes. For example, the construction of a new bridge over the M42 as part of the HS2 rail scheme is being carried out through two week-long closures of the busy motorway over consecutive Christmas periods in 2021 and 2022 when traffic is lightest. The alternative would be 18 months of lane closures, narrow lanes and speed restrictions along with more than 100 overnight closures.
In addition, plans are being drawn up to complete major improvements to the A47/A11 junction outside Norwich via one full nine-day closure and a limited number of overnight closures using innovative off-site construction methods. This would be as an alternative to almost three years of lane closures, contraflows and 30mph speed limits.
FULL CLOSURES THE EXCEPTION RATHER THAN THE NORM
However, in recognition of the short-term impact to local communities and businesses, National Highways is keen to stress that full road closures – normally for a maximum of two weeks – will remain the exception rather than the rule. But project managers are being asked to consider the approach as part of the planning for forthcoming schemes.
Separately, the company is also carrying out multiple maintenance works together on the same stretch of road to maximise the benefits of a full road closure. For example, routine maintenance and reactive works on two junctions of the M53 were grouped together recently, reducing the workforce’s exposure to moving traffic by 5,000 hours and there were 10 fewer occasions where cones and other traffic management was required to complete the works.
This comes as National Highways nears the halfway point of the government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS) – a five-year, £24 billion programme, which includes more than 50 major upgrades of the network.
WORK CARRIED OUT IN LEAST DISRUPTIVE WAY
“Our roads are the most heavily used in the country,” said Laura Baker, Customer Service Director for Major Projects, National Highways. “It’s vital that we undertake an intensive programme of maintenance and improvements to keep them as safe and reliable as possible.
“We already aim to carry out this work in the least disruptive way possible by prioritising times when traffic levels are low, including overnight and at weekends. However, prolonged roadworks can be stressful for drivers and local communities so we’re committed to exploring other ways to further minimise the impact.”
MEASURES REFLECT A WELL-CONSIDERED APPROACH
Michelle Gardner, Head of Public Policy, Logistics UK, said: “While we know that road closures on major routes can be incredibly frustrating for logistics businesses, this raft of measures from National Highways appears to be a well-considered approach to the need to continue improving and maintaining the Strategic Road Network to a high standard.
“For transport operators it is not always possible to see the big picture of the massive programme of work required to keep the network running efficiently and effectively, but this series of measures promises to reduce disruption overall by a significant margin and – importantly – improve the safety of road workers by reducing their exposure to moving traffic.”
Published On: 21/07/2022 16:00:38