Case Study: Rennicks Virtual Journey Time System collaboration supports UK’s first carbon neutral road improvement scheme
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During Autumn 2020, as part of an £8m investment, several maintenance and improvement schemes were delivered by Highways England on the A590 in Cumbria, between M6 junction 36 and Brettargh Holt Roundabout.
The scheme has been hailed as a success, being the first carbon neutral road improvement scheme in the UK. Disruption to road users and the local community was kept to a minimum and technology was used to communicate with and improve safety for road users as they travelled through and around the works.
As part of Highways England’s Supply chain, Rennicks UK worked collaboratively with traffic management company HW Martin and security technology specialists VPS to provide an integrated technology solution that contributed to the success of the scheme, delivering outputs that improved road safety, air quality and traffic flows.
Improving Safety and Traffic Flows Through Communication and the Integration of Technology
Works on the scheme ran day and night so that the work was completed as quickly as possible, reducing overall disruption to road users and the local community. However, to achieve this, full lane closures and alternative diversion routes were required.
There were concerns due to an incident in February 2013 where works in the same vicinity led to tailbacks on the M6 Northbound resulting in two fatalities and a number of serious injuries. To avoid tailbacks, a number of different diversion routes were put in place.
HW Martin needed to find a solution that would inform drivers of the alternative route options, encourage drivers to leave the M6 and choose the best diversion route available, based on the traffic flow at that moment in time.
The Rennicks Virtual Journey Time System (RVJTS), which makes use of crowd sourced journey time data, was chosen to monitor and inform road users of the time it would take to travel through the different diversion routes.
Thirteen Mobile Variable Message Signs (mVMS) from Rennicks were deployed along key routes to provide up to date communications to road users. By integrating the RVJTS with the mVMS units at key locations, two live journey time diversion routes options were able to be displayed on one mVMS unit.
The strategic positioning of the mVMS units allowed drivers to use this information and make an informed choice of which diversion route to take, based on live, accurate journey times for each diversion route.
The availability of this live journey time data, allowing drivers to make a choice of diversion route, meant that traffic flows ran more evenly through the scheme, avoiding congestions and tailbacks on to the M6.
Also of concern through the diversion routes was a low bridge on the journey into Kendal. Additional technology provided by VPS was placed on the route. The VPS Over-Height Vehicle Detection System actively monitors traffic on routes where overhead obstructions pose a strike risk and provides strike warnings to drivers of vehicles that are too large.
In this case, a pair of electronic goalposts mounted onto the VPS Smart Tower were used on the approach to the bridge. When an over height vehicle was detected, a warning message was automatically triggered and displayed on the Rennicks mVMS unit informing drivers of the low bridge ahead and to take an alternative, safer route.
Keith Brown, Area Manager at HW Martin said, “Using the mVMS units and journey time system from Rennicks gave us the ability to inform road users of actual current times and we were able to successfully reroute enough traffic to prevent any build ups on the M6. The equipment and technology behind it was exactly what we required for this scheme – It worked well and was reliable.”
Robert Tait, Sales Director at Rennicks, added, “The challenge of previous incidents and tailbacks in the area demanded that the technology solution deployed for this scheme must provide clear and accurate information to the road user affected. The information provided allowed the road users to make informed decisions on their journey, whether this was real time journey time information or advertising of closures and other key information.”
Reported as one of the greenest projects completed in Cumbria, Highways England used 43,000 tonnes of recycled asphalt for the scheme. The old carriageway will also be recycled into new asphalt and used on future schemes elsewhere. By recycling materials and working up to 24-hours a day, Highways England were able to:
- Reduce carbon emissions by 45%
- Significantly reduce the number of haulage deliveries and save 66,000 miles of HGV movement due to being able to keep vehicles on site.
Using technology to improve traffic flows and avoid tailbacks, not only improved safety for road users, but also assisted with air quality through the scheme. Congestion ramps up emissions as vehicles are forced to repeatedly accelerate and brake, as well as potentially sitting idling in one location if stuck in tailbacks. Using the live journey time information to reroute journeys and keep traffic flowing helped to reduce a potential build up in emissions caused by congestion.
Keith Brown said, “Feedback from Highways England and other stakeholders has been very positive and we all believe that these systems played a major part in the safe and efficient delivery of the scheme. We will definitely look to use this system for future schemes and will happily recommend it across the rest of our business.”
Robert Tait added, “The successful delivery of the road user communication strategy for the scheme is a true testament to successful supply chain collaboration between HW Martin, VPS and Rennicks UK.