Winter service heavyweights team up for research framework

20/12/2018
Dominic Browne

The two top winter service research groups are teaming up to carry out studies into future resilience in the face of climate change.

The Transport Research Laboratory and the National Winter Service Research Group are developing 'a new framework of research to provide road authorities with the means to better plan and prepare winter maintenance programmes'.

Residual salt is one area councils are interested in more research, particularly within the context of marginal winter temperatures at around zero degrees. This is potentially where authorities could make significant savings through fewer treatments or greater confidence to stand down crews.

TRL said current research may have the 'most immediate benefit' in this area. For example:

  • Improvements in weather forecasting – using domain or route-based forecasting to make treatment decisions for smaller portions of the network. This gives scope to only treat certain routes rather than having to treat the entire network.
  • Dynamic route optimisation - techniques that use route-based forecasting to identify efficient treatment routes in real time based on weather conditions.
  • New sensors - that can be located beside or within the road and even on vehicles. These will allow authorities to monitor important factors such as road temperature, road wetness, presence of snow or ice and the amount of salt already on the road before further treatment.

TRL’s winter maintenance expert, Matthew Evans, said: 'The world’s climate is changing rapidly, meaning authorities will face increased challenges to combat weather events and manage their networks effectively. If the UK begins to see warmer winters, a bigger issue may present itself if authorities become less prepared for extreme circumstances as a result.

'Technology is improving all the time and making use of route-based forecasting, dynamic route optimisation and the latest sensors to monitor conditions could potentially provide significant savings in winter maintenance budgets for the typical winter in the UK.'

TRL is the principal contractor to the NWSRG and have assisted in the development of the latest Practical Guidance for Winter Service. This guidance is helping authorities to implement the 'Well-managed Highway Infrastructure' Code of Practice.

The Code requires authorities to implement a risk-based approach, with the flexibility to decide local levels of service through risk-based assessment, rather than a reliance on specific guidance and recommendations as in previous versions of the Code.

You can find the latest guidance from the NWSRG here: http://www.nwsrg.org/publications/guidance

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