“Our research showed that uncoordinated road-works were costing the UK £9.8bn per year, in terms of traffic hold ups, accidents, social costs and so on,” says Future Cities Catapult’s Lavinia Cox. “Its not that people hadn’t tried to make the system better. They had, but it wasn’t working because of siloed thinking and self-interest. It is a major urban challenge which deserved fresh ideas.”
Major works by Seven Trent Water and Miller Homes in Staffordshire presented Lavinia and her team with an opportunity to pilot a new approach utilising familiar Catapult tactics: increasing collaboration, mapping the problem and sharing data. The team built an interactive portal to host ‘mid term’ (covering one to five years) data from a wide range of utilities, contractors and developers in the area. Getting disparate parties to communicate
and share information took months but resulted in unprecedented levels of coordination between the local authority and the private contractors. The hub not only highlights opportunities to combine street works, it also measures the operational, social and financial impacts – giving stakeholders added incentive to support the initiative.
The benefits of the Staffordshire Connected Roadworks project were both impressive and tangible: ten proposed works by different contractors were combined into one, requiring just a single road closure. This meant the roads could be kept open for an additional 25 weeks and saved the contractors c. £184,000 in terms of reduced materials and management costs.
“The key was aligning public and commercial interests so everyone could win. We showed that it works in the
real world, with a solution that is scalable and replicable. We’re now looking to roll it out nationally.”
Using data creatively to look at problems anew and unlock opportunities is at the heart of the Catapult’s thinking. Although they are mandated to be bold and original in their interventions, everything the network does is rooted in market-based evidence. Sometimes following the facts takes them to far away destinations.