Highways England awards new contract to UK’s Met Office


Reliable and accurate weather forecast information is crucial to the ability of an agency to effectively operate a road network. Highways England (HE) has awarded a new contract to provide weather information and expert advice to the Met Office, an executive agency of the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The new weather forecasting information services contract, commissioned by HE’s National Winter and Severe Weather Team, will help ensure a safe and free-flowing road network over the winter months. This builds on the existing 15-year relationship between the two organizations, and strongly supports innovation through the partnership. The daily provision of forecasts and advice to HE remains the core part of the service, but a team of Met Office meteorologists will also be embedded within HE’s National Traffic Operations Centre over the winter months. This team will provide up to the minute advice to operational staff to enable them to effectively maintain safety and minimize disruption on the road network.

Already in place, the service initially covers the provision of national and Area 7 (Midlands) weather forecasting services. In 2017, it will extend to include operational weather forecasting for Areas 1, 2, (South West) 13 (North West) and 14 (North East) once these adopt the asset led delivery model (ALDM). Building direct, collaborative relationships with supply chain partners is a fundamental principle of HE’s new way of working under ALDM. The new contract with the Met Office will run for a minimum of three years and has an expected value of £1m (US$1.3m). Established in 1854, and now headquartered in Exeter, the Met Office provides one-mile (1.5km) resolution forecasts with the aid of the world’s 29th most powerful supercomputer, a 16 petaflops per second Cray XC40.

“We are looking forward to working closely with the Met Office over the next few years,” said Richard Hewitt, HE’s weather forecasting services manager. “We face the challenge of growing demand for travel on the strategic road network, combined with a mandate to operate a free-flowing, safe and serviceable network. To meet this challenge, it is critical that we continue to effectively manage all areas of winter and severe weather services. By working in partnership with the Met Office, we continue to have direct access to high quality information relating to forecast weather conditions on our road network, and world renowned experts in their field, allowing us to better manage our assets during times of adverse weather.”

Jodie Wild, strategic relationship manager at the Met Office, commented, “We are excited to have been awarded this contract and look forward to continuing our close working relationship with HE over the next three years. In choosing the Met Office, HE has recognized not only the excellent support we have delivered to them over the last 10+ years, but also our ability to lead innovation and development in the future. Our world-leading weather and climate science means we are well placed to deliver national and local services, ensuring a targeted operational response in advance of and during severe weather.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).