Look Beyond the Norm to Achieve a Genuine ‘roads revolution’

The governments £15bn Roads Investment Strategy for the next six years and formation of Highways England, are two great steps forward.

This is a real attempt to break away from ‘if you do what you’ve always done you will get what you always get’. Many of the changes talked about in the Roads Investment Strategy will be led by others so what are the challenges for the contractor?

Firstly we must build more safely safer for the travelling public and safer for the workforce. Within my working lifetime (40yrs) I have seen safety on the roads improved ten fold or more but we have to go further. In Osborne we are running a safety programme based around behavioural psychology. Over 400 people engaged on the roads and railways have started the programme and they include our people, our customers and our supply chain. By understanding your own and other peoples psychology you can influence your own and other peoples behaviours far more positively. This is all about changing our mindset to achieve what was considered impossible a few years ago. “We must look beyond what we always do if we want to achieve the goals we now have” So it must be in our approach to everything. Let’s look at the resurfacing needed to be done on 80 per cent of our network. We can approach this as ‘just another job’ or try to think broader. We all hate potholes. We all know that cracks allow water in which freezes and forms pot holes.

Eight years ago I looked at a process for making tarmac that included pulverised old tyres. Surfacing, which includes recycled rubber, has a dramatically lower probability of cracking. It is incidentally also quieter and uses less bitumen. Pollution close to roads is a growing issue. A few years ago in Sweden they came up with a concrete that absorbed carbon monoxide. I am not saying these are the right solutions but I am saying we must look beyond what we always do if we want to achieve the goals we now have. We must accept that some ideas may not work. If we are frightened to trial new ideas then achieving the government’s goals will not happen. The travelling public dread roadworks.

What is the next big step forward in traffic management? I loved that farmer who built his own toll road across his fields when a commuter road was closed and charged people £2 a journey in lieu of the 14 mile diversion. That’s how we contractors need to think.

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