New study into net zero roadworks launched

Dominic Browne

Transport for London (TfL) and the UK's leading street works body have joined forces on a research project to minimise the impact of street and road works on climate change.

Highways understands that the project will cost around £500,000. The project is being funded from money paid by utility companies to TfL’s Lane Rental scheme, which charges utility companies for digging up roads at the most traffic-sensitive times and locations.

The Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC(UK)), which brings together local highway authorities and the utilities to advise government, and Tfl commissioned the University of Birmingham and EA Technology to undertake the Road to Net Zero study.

The research will look at reducing congestion from roadworks, zero emissions machinery, and what changes to business models and legislation might be needed to make the sector more sustainable.

It will also create a draft comprehensive carbon calculator for the streetworks and roadworks sector.

The study will also produce an action plan to help implement the changes needed to achieve net zero.

HAUC(UK) and TfL, supported by a diverse working group (Thames Water, UK Power Networks, Cadent Gas, Southern Gas Networks, Gigaclear, the London Borough of Southwark and the Greater London Authority) and aided in delivery by GeoPlace, said this was 'an exciting opportunity to make a real difference'.

'Finding alternative solutions to replace crude oil, diesel-run machinery and unsustainable or environmentally damaging materials is a key part of the project,' the team said in a statement.

An action plan will be developed to provide recommendations on the short, medium and long-term direction of travel.

The research be based around the following areas:

  1. Material, process, innovation
  2. Climate change, net zero and beyond
  3. Measuring environmental performance.

Dave Capon, co-chair of HAUC(UK) said: 'In 2021 we launched our five-year vision for street and road works in the UK. Central to the strategy is tackling climate change. Customers are more aware of it, the Government has set out ambitious plans for it, and the regulators are setting obligations to help meet it. Taking steps to address the role of street and road works un reaching net zero has never been a greater priority, with high expectations on all sectors to deliver a national ambition.'

'We are delighted to lead this project the ‘road to net zero’ working with our partners to propose radical changes in the way we redesign, construct, operate, maintain, upgrade and repair our roads and buried infrastructure so that it benefits people, places, the economy, and natural and cultural environments.'

Glynn Barton, TfL’s director of network management, said: 'This major new study will ensure that future roadworks are as sustainable as possible, helping to reduce carbon emissions, clean up toxic air and reduce congestion on our roads. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of the study and to working with the sector to help put its recommendations in place.'

The project will take place over the next eight months with the research findings presented in March 2023.

An innovation challenge is expected to follow to tackle some of the outputs, addressing any identified gaps. The aim is to unite the sector in this research and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

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