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Unique Met Office and National Highways partnership determined to keep UK moving in all weathers
For several years, Met Office meteorologists have been based at the National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) between October and April to provide daily weather forecasts to National Highways staff and public weather warnings.
Now even closer links are being developed with the meteorologists providing weather forecasts for specific operational projects, such as when abnormal loads are being transported somewhere on the network.
“We have benefitted for several years from the expertise that our Met Office colleagues bring each day across what tends to be the worst period of the year for extremes of weather,” said Ryan Biggerstaff, National Operations Team Leader at National Highways.
“Developing that so their knowledge and experience helps plan specific operations is a positive step forward and even help us to decide if we are able to go ahead with planned works if the forecast in that part of the country is expected to be poor.”
Earlier this year, the M25 Junction 10 Project Team was due to close the A3 in Surrey for a weekend whilst 10 large concrete bridge beams were lifted into place. The 80 tonne, 35-metre-long beams had been manufactured in Ireland and shipped to the site via a ferry into Liverpool docks, then via the M6, M40 and M25 motorways.
As part of the project, nature provided a challenge: an approaching storm with high winds along a vulnerable part of the route. These winds were forecast to be just above the limits this abnormal load could withstand.
However, after the National Network Manager sought the expertise of Met Office forecasters at NTOC to provide the haulier with a dedicated forecast for the route, location-specific analysis allowed more detailed understanding of the winds for that particular route, showing that at the planned journey time winds were forecast to be slightly below the operating limits, allowing the journey to go ahead.
During the 24-hour journey from Ireland to the south east, the National Network Manager closely monitored the journey to ensure that it went smoothly and kept the project team updated on the progress outside of business hours.
With just hours to spare, the last two beams arrived in time for the weekend closure of the A3. This prevented a significant delay and cost to the Wisely Project.
The Met Office has three meteorologists based at NTOC on a rolling programme between October and April.
“We provide national forecasts and alerts as required, and a new dimension to our work this winter is to offer extra assistance for specific operations such as the example with the abnormal loads,” said Mike Bench, Senior Meteorologist and Team Leader for the Met Office.
“Working in the same office gives us an opportunity to live and breathe what is happening. We get to hear it first hand and see where the real pinch points are. It is particularly effective when we have floods or snow impacting on the network to be able to inform and engage with National Highways colleagues.”
Published On: 08/02/2024 14:00:00
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