Road Expo: WSP director outlines decarbonisation priorities

Dominic Browne

WSP's UK director of sustainability has called for the sector to unite and seize the opportunity to achieve net zero or face a strategic threat to roads investment, stressing 'there is no net zero UK, without net zero roads'.

Speaking ahead of his major speech at next week's Road Expo, Scotland's flagship traffic and transport event, David Symons made a rallying cry and highlighted key steps on the road to net zero.

'In my talk, I will discuss net zero in roads maintenance and construction. This is the time for the highways industry to come together to lead the race to net zero and demonstrate that highways is at the heart of the solution,' he told Highways magazine.

'It is not too late but we need to take the opportunity for the sector to come together and work at pace to deliver net zero carbon. If we don't, it could be a strategic threat to investment in roads and there is no net zero UK without net zero roads.'

He also revealed that WSP modelling suggests the carbon emissions of road transport could be reduced to the level of rail's by as soon as 2035, because of the much quicker zero emission transition process for road vehicles over rail rolling stock and heavy engineering.

Mr Symons outlined several areas of key focus that he will discuss in greater depth in Glasgow, including what he argued were the top three priorities in net zero highways:


'Suppliers need clarity from bodies such as National Highways and Transport Scotland on what is expected in terms of decarbonisation including the materials involved and how the budgets and finance will support this work.

'We hope the work National Highways has done outlining its expectations through its decarbonisation plan can be aligned with the rest of the UK.'


'Standards have to support net zero carbon in construction. They have to move faster than they do at the moment to adapt. That is not a criticism of the standards, which have previously been focused on design, safety and cost issues. Net zero and resilience are two new priorities that have emerged.'


'There needs to be a recognition that the Government cannot pay for all of the innovation in the construction sector. Construction firms are big businesses and they should invest in low carbon techniques and technologies and don't have to wait for the Government to get on with that.'

WSP has pledged to halve the carbon footprint of all the designs and advice it provides to clients by 2030. This commitment builds on the firm’s earlier vow to bring its own UK operational carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.

Mr Symonds highlighted that WSP had been working with National Highways on decarbonisation strategies for the last 18 months. It has also worked closely with Transport Scotland with more of a focus on implementation, through schemes such as the flagship Electric A9 programme to deliver charge points along Scotland's longest road.

WSP also works with local authorities on environmental issues, many of which have set their own decarbonisation targets.

'Decarbonising over the next 20 years is one of the biggest challenges in highways at the moment,' he said. 'WSP can bring practical reflections and share innovations we have found across industry. One of our great opportunities for WSP is to help scale up successful innovations from wherever we find them.

'There are a plethora of examples. We have done great work on modular offsite manufacturing with Laing O'Rourke, for which we have won awards. That process can cut carbon by 30%.

'There is also warm mix asphalt, which is fairly standard now and the work of National Highways on graphene to see how you can extend the life of surfaces.

'There is also lots to celebrate in other areas such as the work Jacobs and HS2 Ltd have done on the Colne Valley Viaduct.'

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue


  • The £2.5bn Surrey partnering contract
  • The politics of protest
  • Stoke's roadworks league
View the latest issue

Highways jobs

Shopmobility & Public Convenience Attendant

Grade 3 - Starting at £18,657 per annum, pro rata rising to £19,905
We are looking for an individual who works well in a small team to deliver an excellent level of service at our flagship Market Road Public Conveni... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Waste Collection Operative - HGV Driver/Loader

Grade 5 - Starting at £23,403 per annum, rising to £25,791
If you enjoy working outside and would like to make a positive contribution to the collection of both waste and recycling in the Borough, this coul... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Director of Climate Emergency & Behavioural Change

£95,000 to £109,000 per annum
At Waltham Forest we are developing an ambitious, transformative agenda to tackle the global Climate Emergency. Waltham Forest, London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Waltham Forest

Street Works and Permitting Manager

£44,863 - £51,817
Are you a qualified highways engineer who wants to make a difference to the efficient running of the highway network within Lincolnshire? Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Warehouse Assistant/Driver

£20,903 - £24,491 per annum
An opportunity has arisen for the recruitment of a Warehouse Assistant / Driver. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Highways Officer

£27,741 to £30,451
Are you someone who is looking to progress their career with one of the most highly regarded highway services in the country? Brompton, Northallerton
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Officer

£27,741 to £30,451
Are you someone who is looking to progress their career with one of the most highly regarded highway services in the country? Boroughbridge, York
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Parking Enforcement Supervisor

£30,585 - £31,557
As part of a major service transformation, Haringey is seeking to recruit to a new number of new positions. Haringey, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Haringey London Borough Council

Bus Support Officer

We are looking for people to work as part of our exciting new bus team! Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Environmental Health/Environmental Protection Officer - Noise

£41,607.00 - £44,598.00
This post attracts an essential car user allowance. The post holder is able to take part in the Council's flexible working scheme. Tower Hamlets, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Tower Hamlets London Borough Council

Greenspace & Environment Enforcement Officer

£20,092 - £24,491
You will work as part of a team undertaking environmental enforcement activities which focus on improving the street environment Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Strategic Transport Modelling Manager

£47,695 - £55,226
You will provide leadership to the organisations program of transport model development Leeds, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: West Yorkshire Combined Authority

Engineer - Highway Planned Maintenance

£22,183 - £27,041
We are seeking to appoint an Officer with highway experience. We are delivering a Highway Investment programme across... Stockport, Greater Manchester
Recruiter: Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

Chargehand Driver, Non-HGV (Street Services)

£22,185 - £22,587
Street Services provides a highly important service to all of the borough’s residents and visitors Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Environmental Cleansing Operative (Street Services)

£21,030 - £21,408
Street Services provides a highly important service to all of the borough’s residents and visitors Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Waste Operative (Street Services)

£22,185 - £22,587
Street Services provides a highly important service to all of the borough’s residents and visitors Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Cleaning Operative

Grade 2 - £17,715 per annum, pro rota.
Chelmsford City Council are seeking a self-motivated, experienced and customer-focused Cleaning Operative to join our cleaning team. You will provi... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Assistant Quantity Surveyor - Highways Contracts & Commissioning (multiple posts)

£27,741 - £29,577
In return, the Council offers a variety of benefits including Local Government Pension Scheme, flexible working and an opportunity to be... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Performance & Assurance Manager - Highways Contracts & Commissioning

£38,447 - £41,412
The post holder will provide professional contract performance management and compliance support to... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Construction Cost Manager - Highways Contracts & Commissioning

£43,597 - £46,875
With exciting new developments and high profile projects underway and in the pipeline for many years to come, working with... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video