Inspiration


Our projects


We are stimulating innovation across the highways sector. Successful innovation requires implementation across our business from fundamental research to the effective implementation of standards.



Examples

Here we feature examples of our innovation projects. This section will be regularly updated, and over time we will build a library of innovation projects, past and present



If widely adopted, the solution will help reduce accidents and road closures, improve reliability on the network and ultimately boost the economy.

Designed to prevent flooding events on the strategic road network, iDrain allows Highways England to monitor drainage chamber water levels remotely allowing intelligence led asset management to prevent accidents and road closures.

Over the years, one of the greatest persistent problems faced by the national strategic road infrastructure is flooding. It is undeniable that the risk of road traffic accidents and closures increases significantly during periods of heavy rain. Excessive carriageway surface water significantly reduces skid resistance and in extreme case aquaplaning and total loss of control.

The mitigation of high risk flooding hotspots is a direct performance measure for Highways England and the installation of iDrain at these sites will directly support this. The closure of the strategic road network due to flooding is an increasing risk due to more severe weather events and ageing underground pipe networks that are difficult to monitor. This is detrimental for the economy and our network. The impact of ‘doing nothing’ means that we will be at risk of more road traffic accidents and road closures relating to flooding, this will have a direct impact on our strategic outcomes and performance measures.

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


Connectivity could improve construction site monitoring and logistics – helping to manage the movement of plant and minimizing the exposure of workers to hazards.

The introduction of connected and autonomous plant will positively disrupt all aspects of the construction industry. The possible benefits of this new technology are vast and indicate that CAP should be explored, developed and adopted across the sector.

As part of our digital roads vision, we are developing a roadmap for the implementation of automation in construction. The project will work collaboratively with academia and industry, including i3P, to identify how connectivity and automation can be used to resolve some of the key challenges faced by the construction sector, including safety, efficiency and integration of people and plant equipment.
We will work with industry experts with support from academia to assess and understand the state-of-the-art across all aspects of construction. A group of industry stakeholders will be established, to assist in the creation of a clear vision for the future of CAP in the UK, and to deliver a roadmap to address the social, technological, commercial and legislative challenges.

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


The ECRU will include a greater variety of tools and equipment to enable immediate and safer repairs.

This project undertakes trials and testing of the ECRU, a specialist vehicle capable of providing more equipment at the front line and greater protection the people clearing incidents.

We are working with Kier trialling a new vehicle, the Enhanced Customer Response Unit (ECRU), that can be jointly occupied by both our Traffic Officers and Asset Incident Watchmen.

The ECRU includes a greater variety of tools and equipment to enable the watchmen to immediately carry out repairs, cleansing and sweeping operations in a safer, more efficient and speedy manner for commonly occurring incident damage that may otherwise necessitate calling out secondary vehicles.

Features include jetting capabilities for oil spillages, on-board welfare facilities e.g. kitchen and toilet, VMS and crash cushions, jetter facility and mechanical sweeper for swifter, safer clear up of debris.

The ECRU will operate as a front-line response unit that will significantly improve incident clear-up times, to quickly ease congestion whilst improving operative safety through a reduced time of exposure to risk on the network.

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


Fit2Go prevents blowouts and dangerous incidents by keeping Highways England staff, customers and the supply chain safe from harm.

The project evaluated the Innovative Fit2Go Tyre Pressure Management system (TPMS), which monitors tyres for pressure and temperature problems.
Fit2Go allows operators/drivers to check vehicle/trailer tyre pressures by simply holding the checker next to the sensor, which transmits the pressure in seconds and without the time consuming connecting of a gauge to the tyre valve, which removes air and is un-hygienic.

In the case of a tyre problem detected by a tyre sensor, the relevant icon on the receiver will flash on and off combined with a bleeping alarm to alert the driver of any tyre pressure problems.
Simply stop the vehicle at the nearest convenience, check for the flashing light on the tyre pressure sensor, remove the sensor, and re-inflate the relevant tyre at the next convenient opportunity, before re-attaching the sensor, the receiver will then revert back to reporting mode.

Working with Kier, the technology was trialled on our Area 9 Winter Fleet and other Highways England vehicles, such as Plant, Trailers and Traffic Officer vehicles to ensure that our Area 9 vehicle fleet is safe for use and that we keep our people, customers and our delivery partners safe.

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


Having the most accurate and reliable detection equipment ensures the most rapid response to incidents possible, improving safety for our customers.

To trial competition winning state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology, for incident detection within Highways England’s Tunnel Testbed

Our Tunnel Incident Detection Testbed was installed to enable manufacturers to trial and evaluate their products within a live environment, so that we can procure the best technology available for this purpose, and ensure manufacturer.

After winning a competition at the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub at Highways UK, Vivacity were offered an opportunity to install their equipment within the testbed, to demonstrate their capabilities. They were installed in October 2018, and evaluated until May 2019.

The results have shown Vivacity’s product to have performed extremely well in all performance criteria, and have exceeded all expectations with their results. It is the most successful incident detection equipment to have been trialled in the testbed to date.

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


By fully automating the cone laying process, we are removing any increased risk to road works and the customer. It will also show a reduction in slips, trips and falls reported in Airsweb.

Designed using a collaborative platform, this project will result in the successful pursuance of full automation of a road legal fully automated cone laying vehicle.

As part of Highways England’s Connecting the Country strategy, automation of high risk manual activities has been identified as a strategic priority. Manually installing and removing traffic management cones has been identified as an activity that should be eliminated where practicable.
The automated cone laying machine will be developed with a cross functional company group of industry experts to look at how this project can be delivered successfully. Experts from Highways England, Kier, HW Martins, Highway Care and King Highways have come together in a collaborative effort to resolve this issue.
The aim of this project is to fully automate the process. This will allow cones for longitudinal coning to be installed and removed with no operative having to be on the rear of the works vehicle at any time, reducing risk to road works and customers.

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


If widely adopted Luminescent Lighting could allow significant efficiencies to be made – £130,000 savings have been made to date.

Designed to help our customers feel safe in pedestrian and cyclist areas–Luminescent disks allow our customers to see in dark areas of our network at night, it also promotes a cost effective way of lighting

There is no lighting on the approach to the Boxted bridge. This raises the likelihood of cyclists crossing the bridge via the cycle path colliding with the overhanging section of the parapet.

A proposal to provide a street lighting-based solution at a cost of £250k has not been progressed due to insufficient justification.

Following a desktop study, a low-cost alternative solution of installing electro-luminescent markings has been identified. The solution will indicate the presence of the hazard and guide cyclists away from the overhang, and provide more visibility for its users.

The expected benefits include:

  • a low capital and low operating cost solution at this location which can then be used to inform other cycling designs at other locations.
  • a zero-carbon footprint, zero ecological impact, zero light pollution compared with the traditional lighting proposal.

Should the solution perform well, then there is opportunity to use it for other applications to improve safety, particularly maintenance access and to prevent slips trips and falls for alighted pedestrians and road workers when on foot.

This project was delivered through the Cycling, Safety and Integration Fund as part of the Roads Investment Strategy.

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


Betting understanding of assets and infrastructure risks, could potentially improve safety by reducing the need for people working on the road/rail networks and improve network availability for customers by reducing the need for closures for on-site inspections

Collaborative development into application of remote sensing technologies – Trail hyperspectral (Plus LiDAR and photography) remote sensors on an aerial survey to inventory and potentially monitor the condition/change of various rail and road network assets over time

Background: Advances in remote sensing technologies provide opportunities to improve how assets such as the road and rail networks can be managed. Highways England and Network Rail are working together to investigate what advantages there are for using hyperspectral imaging in combination with LiDAR and aerial imagery on the road and rail networks.

Purpose: To better understand network assets and their
Potential risks; more effective planning of maintenance and renewals; improved safety on the networks through reduction of physical inspection time; and, improved network efficiency through reducing need for closures and on-site inspections

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


This will reduce the impact of joints breaking, and therefore will provide a greater journey reliability time for the customer.

This trail will demonstrate how effective the bond is from using Joint heaters, long term benefits can be realised through whole life cost and durability of the pavement.

The use of Joint heaters is not a new technique, but up to now they have never been proven as to how effective they are, this try will prove where there is any long term benefit that can realised from their use.

This trial will involve laying two lanes, 50m in length. The pavement will be allowed to cool at which point thermocouples will be installed along the joint interface before the second lane is then paved. Temperature and effectiveness of the joint heater will be monitored. After installation, various stress and bond tests will be undertaken to determine if the bond of the joint is more effective than using the current method of bonding agents.

  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


Switch Island, is a major interchange between the motorway, trunk and local road networks in Sefton, Merseyside. Over the past 5 years the number of accidents at this junction had risen considerably. By 2017, it ranked as the highest accident cluster site on the Strategic Road Network in the North West.

As part of a £6.2m improvement scheme, intelligent road studs were used for the first time in England.

The studs, which illuminate in time with the green phase of the traffic signals, guide vehicles through the junction. They help maintain correct lane discipline and reduce incidents caused by vehicles inadvertently deviating from their intended route. When the signals return to red, the lights in the studs turn off.

As the studs only illuminate when the signals are green, motorists can be clear when they can go. Reduction in the number of incidents caused by red light running can therefore also be reduced with this technology. Both of these issues were significant contributors to the incidents that occurred at this junction.


  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


Sensors and antennas transmit raw data to pole-mounted control units that send the data for analysis and provide a real-time ‘road map’ for operators.

This project provides a pilot scheme to install and provide a proof of concept for deployment of intelligent road studs on Highways England’s Motorway Network. The project uses Highways UK Innovation Award 2017 winner Valerann’s technology, and is being delivered by Kier in conjunction with the inventor.

The smart stud provides road operators with unparalleled, real-time, precise information about everything that occurs on the road, at a lower cost of existing solutions.

Consolidating many needs in one tool allows for fusion of data from different sensors regarding different activities such as weather, traffic levels and speed, in order to understand specific events such as traffic accidents, and stationary vehicle detection with cause and impact on traffic.

The system is comprised of four parts: the smart road stud, a wireless gateway (RSU), a cloud analytics server, and a dynamic user interface. The back-bone of the technology is virtual; all data is stored, analysed, and archived in the cloud. The interface is web-based and available via API.


  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery


Positive implications statement on our business – must link to at least one of the three imperatives of safety, customer, delivery.

This project undertakes trials and testing of a towable road rake system that can be deployed by our HGV qualified staff, to collect litter and debris at speeds of up to 18mph.

The Road Rake was developed from the ‘Surf Rake’ which is used primarily in the US (but also in the UK), to collect litter and debris from beaches. It will be used to safely, efficiently and effectively remove debris on both reactive works such as incident response as well as planned.

Working with Kier, we are trialling the operation of these machines for the first time on the UK highway network. Some modifications to standard issue may be required in due course, such as in-cab operated brush deployment and on-board weighbridge to prevent the risk of the trailer becoming overloaded.

Road Rake can be used to collect debris in the carriageway following an incident, or for cleansing the hard shoulder in advance of hard shoulder running. The versatility of this machine enables debris that is collected to be tipped into conventional skips that are stored in every depot.


  • Safety
  • Customer
  • Delivery