So prime minister David Cameron has pledged to create 100 major road construction projects over the next seven years. Describing it as “nothing less than a roads revolution”, the schemes will form part of a multi-billion pound investment in roads promised by the coalition for the next Parliament.
Further details will be revealed in next month’s Autumn Statement, but schemes mooted to be added to the active list include the Stonehenge tunnel on the A303 and upgrades of the A1 north of Newcastle.
These are new additions to the Highways Agency’s already hefty programme set out for this Parliament and next - you can view our progress update on this in this week’s issue.
The additions - and Cameron’s sentiment - are exciting news for the profession, and frankly, for society generally. And what makes it even more exciting for the profession is that the Highways Agency is already talking about how it wants these future schemes to push the boundaries of innovation.
We know this because the Agency this week named the 25 companies earning a place on its £5bn delivery framework - and in the same breath challenged them to find quicker, safer ways of working on Britain’s major roads.
Chief executive Graham Dalton says: “We have a lot of challenges ahead. The Treasury expects a lot to be done with the money we have. We can’t afford to take more and more road space; we need to be more innovative.”
Pleasingly, the Agency is not only making the right noises, but is embracing the right kind of procurement and structures to enable such innovation.
And over the life of the framework, a range of procurement methods will be used to choose firms, all in the interest of delivering better value.
The framework, in its structure, style and use, the Agency’s first step to becoming a government-owned company, with a longer-term funding plan key to delivering better and more cost effective projects.
Striving to do things differently is something we’ll be delighted to support here at NCE. Not least because this week, I’m delighted to say, we are unveiling a new and improved app.
The app is free for all ICE members who have opted not to receive a print copy of NCE, and is a brilliant way to keep up to date with what is happening in the industry and also to learn about technical excellence and future technologies. New features in the app include sections dedicated to exploring the latest technologies and the role of the future-facing engineer.
NCE’s technical content is much enhanced, with the app displaying superb images from construction projects large and small with pin-sharp resolution and great videos that show how engineers are doing their jobs in a range of ways.
And anyone who still likes to read NCE in magazine style can access a full library of recent issues.
So just as the Highways Agency is shaping itself for a bold a future - a revolution even - NCE is also ready with a revolution of our own. Do join us!
- Mark Hansford is NCE’s editor