New technology could see roadworks ‘rarely being necessary’, predicts Balfour Beatty

Balfour Beatty has presented an alternative way of delivering highways works which predicts an end to roadworks on motorways.

In the latest of its policy papers, Balfour said new technology will evolve the way in which contractors deliver works and dramatically improve customer satisfaction.

Four million people use Highways England’s Strategic Road Network (SRN) each day. This is forecast to grow by a further 40% by 2040 with the cost of congestion expected to increase by 63% by 2030.

Over the coming decades, both the SRN and local assets will require constant upgrades, maintenance and expansion to handle the increased reliance on our road networks. This traditionally means an increase in roadworks and delays as a result of further closures, reduced speed limits and increased congestion.

However with eight key points and recommendations outlined within the paper, Balfour Beatty presents a number of ideas to address the issues, based around two key themes:

  • Improving the customer experience through better communications
  • Reducing the amount of time roadworks take, utilising new technology with the ultimate goal of roadworks rarely being necessary

In the report, titled ‘Customer Driven: Delivering roads for the future’, Balfour said “contractors will not be putting out cones anymore.”

It added: “In the medium-to-long-term, we are planning how to do away altogether with the roadworks we know customers hate – or at least how to keep to them to a minimum and to ensure that they cause as little disruption as possible.

“This could be based on a combination of increasing the use of offsite, modular ‘click and fit’ approaches; using mobile factories which are able to be moved around; 3D printing; and the use of self-healing surfaces.

“We will also aim to reduce the number of people working onsite, increasing the amount of automation, to improve safety and speed and to keep costs down.

“Over this timeframe, contractors will not be putting out cones or widening motorways anymore.

“With self-driving cars rapidly becoming a reality, the roads themselves will also need to change completely to accommodate the new technology, resulting in a signage-free network without gantries, with roads surfaces embedded with solar panels.”

Phil Clifton, managing director of Balfour Beatty’s Highways business, said: “In today’s digital age, we must provide a digital solution. With technology infiltrating all aspects of life, customers expect the same level of technological advancement in their journeys on the road; industry must adapt to respond to this expectation.

“We must embrace technology, both in our construction practices and communication with customers, if we are to become a truly future-focussed highways industry.”

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