Opinion Former Article

Future vision set out for major roads

Ambitious plans have been set out by Highways England to fully embrace future technology over the next 30 years.

These include the development of ‘smart’ infrastructure assets, capable of making their own maintenance decisions based on performance. Manufacturing components on site using 3D printing is another aspiration for the long term.

Highways England also predicts that cars of the future could be programmed to spot potholes on motorways and automatically transmit the information back to the company so that repairs can be scheduled. It adds that drones could also be used to fly overhead and report back on incidents, improving response times.

Details of its future vision are revealed today in a ‘Connecting the Country’ plan, published alongside its Strategic Road Network initial report, which gives proposals and recommendations for the second Road Investment Period from 2020 to 2025.

Priorities set out in the initial report include ambitions for Smart Motorways to become the spine of the network and for the continued roll out of Expressways. To view the report, click here.

A public consultation on the report is being hosted by the Department for Transport and closes on Wednesday 7 February.

Further ambitions revealed by Highways England include the removal of gantries and variable message signs in the medium term, as highway corridors are designed to accommodate connected and autonomous vehicles. By 2050, Highways England says it expects to run a network of connected and fully autonomous vehicles.

The company also suggests the placing of strategic park and ride sites to improve urban mobility in the short term and for the potential to be explored of switching freight to autonomous night time operation. It also recognises that while the evolution of ‘Mobility as a Service’ may lead to a reduction in private vehicle use for commuting, it could eventually result in a need to manage greater demand for the use of its network.

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “We are delivering a record £15Bn of Government investment to give people safe, efficient and reliable journeys, and provide businesses with the links they need to prosper and grow.

“Because people’s journeys are important to us we are setting out our high level aspirations which will help ensure the network continues to drive economic growth, jobs and prosperity, and keeps traffic moving today, and into the future.

“We encourage people to read our report and feedback through the Department for Transport’s consultation.”

A CIHT spokesman said: “CIHT welcomes the publication of this report. We are pleased to see that there is an emphasis on the importance of maintenance, resilience and safety. We will be responding to the DfT consultation that was launched today and provide a more detailed review in due course.”

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