Firms set to clean up as M25 gets the vacuum treatment

Chris Ames

A new vehicle-mounted vacuum litter picker is set to improve the way the UK’s busiest motorway is cleaned, Balfour Beatty has said.

The custom-designed hoover has been developed and built by Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet in partnership with Connect Plus Services (CPS), the company which operates and maintains the M25 on behalf of Connect Plus and Highways England.

The firm said the new design enables maintenance crews to collect litter of various sizes, shapes, and weights from the roadside using a handheld vacuum pipe secured to a custom-built machine, mounted on a truck bed.

The litter is then deposited into a compartment within the vehicle, and any dust contained through a specialised filter.

Following a successful trial on the M25 network, the vehicle will now join Connect Plus Services’ fleet.

Highways England south east regional director Nicola Bell said: ‘Hundreds of thousands of people use the M25 each day, and litter is a real problem. This innovative vehicle will help roadworkers to clear litter much more quickly than picking it by hand, and will also free up time for other maintenance and safety priorities.’

Balfour Beatty said the vacuum pump means workers do not have to manually collecting waste, will increase the speed at which litter can be collected while reducing the amount of time workers spend on a live highway environment.

It also removes the chance of crews coming into contact with hazardous or unpleasant substances.

The litter picker was designed and built by the partnership, working with CPS’ litter picking crews to ensure the new device improved the workers’ health and safety, while also improving the rate of litter picking.

Andy Ormerod, managing director of Balfour Beatty’s Plant and Fleet Services business, said: “With health and safety at the heart of everything we do, we are pleased to have been able to provide an innovative solution to our workforce which reduces risk and increases productivity.

‘Our expert capabilities have allowed us to design and build a state-of-the-art piece of equipment, taking into consideration challenges currently being faced by those working on highways projects.’

Connect Plus Services managing director David Neal said: ‘In 2018 we collected over 50,000 bags of litter from the M25 and its surrounding roads, which requires extensive resource and expert planning to ensure the network remains clean and clear, with minimal impact on the travelling public.’

The innovation follows on from Kier Highways' RoadRake design – originally a device used in Australia to clean beaches now used to clear litter from the roads.

Nicola Bell is a judge at the Highways Awards on 9 October.

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