UK’s Live Labs project to develop innovative highways services in Kent


Kent is to benefit from a £2m (US$2.5m) UK Government grant to research and trial new technology to improve the safety of the county’s road network, as part of a wider project led by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT), which represents local authority county, unitary and metropolitan directors.

Launched in May last year, the ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme is a two-year £22.9m (US$28.5m) project funded by the UK Department for Transport (DfT) and supported by project partners SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP. Local authorities are working on eight projects to introduce digital innovation across SMART mobility, transport, highways maintenance, data, energy and communications. The new funding for Kent will be used to explore how data and technology can improve decision-making for the future of the county’s highways as part of the Live Labs programme. The research will be carried out by Kent County Council and Amey, which is owned by the Spanish multinational Ferrovial, one of the world’s leading infrastructure management and investment companies.

The Live Labs project in Kent will be trialling key innovations that will enable highways staff to make intelligent operational decisions based on machine learning and data science analytics. Some of the trials identified include intelligent traffic modelling devices, computer vision that will assess the rate at which the road surfaces degrade, and provide information that will assist staff when making decisions on when a new road scheme needs to be built. Computer traffic counting assessment will also be developed for potential use when new road schemes are being planned and built. Additionally, sensor technology is being used across a range of highway assets including drains to mitigate against flooding events and sensors measuring road surface temperature to enable smarter gritting during the winter months. The Project team will also be developing an operational analytics platform to integrate all data and innovations within the service.


“This ADEPT Live Labs investment enables us to carry out live technology testing where real data will affect the outcomes, giving us a much clearer idea of the success, or failure, of each innovation than ever before,” explained David Ogden, business director at Amey. “This is important work for the good of the county’s roads and, ultimately, for the good of the country, as we work in partnership with Kent County Council to test these long-term solutions to improve the highways network.”

Giles Perkins, programme director for ADEPT Live Labs, said, “We developed ADEPT’s Live Labs programme to create partnerships between industry and local authorities to test and develop scaleable solutions the rapid changes we are seeing in the transport sector. Over the next two years, the insights and learning from Kent, and the other seven Live Labs, will be invaluable for local authorities and industry right across the UK and beyond.”

Michael Payne, Kent County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, commented, “We are delighted to have been selected to take part in the Live Labs programme. Kent has an incredibly busy road network and the information collected from these live investigations will be invaluable for future decision-making.”



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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.