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Technology key to efficient use of new roads cash, say firms

Potholes Portsmouth road PFI

Civils firms are being urged to adopt cutting-edge asset management technology in a bid to ensure that new cash for road repairs announced in the Budget is spent more efficiently. 

New technology includes vehicle-mounted scanners and drones, which technology firms claim can slash the costs of road resurfacing.

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget announcement included £420M to improve roads, including tackling potholes. This would would be added to the existing £300M government fund to help councils tackle potholes.Hammond also said the fund could be used to repair other road infrastructure such as bridges.

Topcon business development manager Andy McCann said scanners attached to the back of vehicles means that roads do not need to be closed for people to survey them.

“There are no workers in the road and we do not need to have any men surveying, so it keeps it very safe. The vehicle can drive at 50MPH up the carriageway and it picks up millions of points of the road surface and we do a complete digital picture of the current state of the road.

“From that, we can then take that data and put it into some software called ‘Magnet Resurfacing’ and we can then start to decide how we want to create a design for the planer to work to. We call it optimising ‘mill and fill’.”

Topcon has previously used the 3D technology to resurface a 1.4km long and 31m wide strip of the west runway at Frankfurt airport in Germany in under a week.

Speaking of present methods for road resurfacing in the UK, McCann said: “All you are doing is planing out what is there and then laying it back.

“Where you have got these deeper imperfections, you are not actually doing anything about them because you have just got the same problem and it is almost like you are putting sticking plaster over it.”

Calls for greater use of technology in delivering UK projects have also been made by James Dean, the chief executive of construction technology company SenSat.

Dean said: “The Government must do more to mandate Highways England and local authorities to use technology into their workflows that deliver projects more efficiently.

“We have measured efficiency savings of 400% when manual construction tasks are replaced by technology - for example, manned survey data collection in comparison to drone survey data collection. This could save the UK government at least £1.5bn of the £30bn allocated as generally 5% of the spend is on manual survey data collection.”

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