Highways England launches 15-year plan to ‘revolutionise’ construction industry

WCN Editorial Team 15 Jun 2020 EUROPE TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

The UK government-owned Highways England announced a 15-year plan to bring the digital revolution to the construction industry which could increase productivity, save billions of pounds while slashing the number of fatal building site accidents.

Highways England is spearheading the launch of the plan, which will accelerate the use of technology in infrastructure.

Connected and autonomous plant (CAP) is already being used to transform activities across the construction sector in the country, with the usage of robotic trucks on the recently opened A14 improvement.

Now Highways England along with its partners TRL and the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P) have set out a roadmap, where the use of CAP techniques will become a standard industry practice by 2035.

By implementing CAP technology, improvements in productivity are expected to exceed £400bn by 2040.

Highways England CEO Jim O’Sullivan said: “Connected and autonomous plant will make work safer and quicker.

“The Roadmap lays out the benefits and addresses the barriers to making this a reality. We are confident the Roadmap will help our supply chain to rapidly make this the norm on our worksites.”

Developed by collaborating with more than 100 industry stakeholders, the CAP Roadmap is expected to reduce fatalities in the construction sector by 37%, improve productivity by up to £400bn by 2040, bring £53bn in annual savings across new construction work, assist in 47% of construction activities and bring benefits of more than £3bn in road construction between now and 2035.

HS2 CEO Mark Thurston said: “This work charts an extremely exciting and potentially game-changing route as to how we operate our sites as we build Britain. My challenge to our industry is to take the steps we can take today to improve our future, moving forwards together to make our people more efficient, and safer than ever.”

Highways England is already trialling CAP plant across key areas. Automated dump trucks were trialled on the recently opened A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement.

During the trial, the trucks were programmed remotely to follow, a pre-determined route and they could detect and avoid obstacles and other vehicles, along the route.

They can be used for round-the-clock working and help reduce the time in which the roadworks are completed. Being automated, they also reduced the risk of road workers being involved in accidents at the site, allowing jobs to be moved to other skilled areas.

On the A14 and motorways, a robot is expected to save drivers from hundreds of hours of disruption, by using precise positioning technology to map out where the white lines are needed to be painted on new or resurfaced roads, which put road workers’ lives at less risk of an accident.

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Automated trucks put to use on A14 improvement in England. (Credit: Crown Copyright.)

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