Highways England (HE) has published its Strategic Road Network Initial Report (SRNIR), which outlines the government-owned company’s assessment of its achievements since its creation in 2015, the current state of the SRN, and its vision of the future.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has simultaneously launched its public consultation into the SRNIR, the results of which will be used by the government to help develop the next Road Investment Strategy for 2020-25 (RIS2) that is expected to be published in 2019. In the SRNIR, HE notes that technology will play an increasingly major role in keeping people moving, and the country connected. It also stresses the importance of keeping existing roads properly maintained, and that it does so in a way which minimizes disruption to road users and local communities.
In its vision of the future, the agency foresees an intelligent road network coupled with connected vehicles that would improve how efficiently roads are maintained, and at the same time improve safety. Future vehicles could be programmed to spot potholes on motorways and automatically transmit the information to HE to schedule repairs. The agency will also be continuing its tests of ‘self-healing’ roads, which have already proved successful in the laboratory and pilots. In another development drones could also be used to fly overhead and report back on incidents, improving response times. HE is also expecting to see: the widespread use of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), truck platooning, and the increasing ‘electrification’ of the road network.
The Initial Report outlines HE’s eight aspirations for the next road period:
• Focus on operations, maintenance, and renewals;
• Build the Smart Motorway spine of the network
• Roll out ‘expressways’;
• Undertake transformational investments;
• Deliver a balanced investment program;
• Renew focus on small and medium schemes;
• Deliver through refined designated funds;
• Prepare for the future.
“We are delivering a record £15 billion (US$20bn) of government investment to give people safe, efficient, and reliable journeys, and provide businesses with the links they need to prosper and grow,” noted HE’s chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan. “Because people’s journeys are important to us, we are setting out our high-level aspirations which will help ensure the network continues to drive economic growth, jobs and prosperity, and keeps traffic moving today, and into the future. We encourage people to read our report and feedback through the Department for Transport’s consultation.”