‘Vacuum cleaner’ to keep UK’s busiest motorway clear of litter


Keeping highways clear of litter and debris is vitally important in ensuring the safety of all road users, so an innovative new machine has been developed that will change the way the UK’s busiest motorway is cleaned.

The custom-designed, vehicle-mounted vacuum litter picker has been developed and built by Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet in partnership with Connect Plus Services (CPS), the company which operates and maintains the M25 London Orbital Motorway on behalf of Connect Plus and Highways England (HE). The innovative new design enables maintenance crews to collect litter of various sizes, shapes, and weights from the roadside with the use of a handheld vacuum pipe secured to a bespoke machine, mounted on a truck bed. The litter is then deposited into a compartment within the vehicle, and any dust contained through a specialized filter.

The litter picker was designed and built by the partnership, working collaboratively with CPS’ litter picking crews to ensure the new device improved health and safety when working on the UK’s busiest motorway, while also improving the rate of litter picking. Through the implementation of the vacuum pump, which pulls litter in with suction as opposed to teams manually collecting the waste, the machine will increase the speed at which litter can be collected while reducing the amount of time workers spend on a live highway environment. In addition, the new vacuum pump also removes the chance of crews coming into contact with hazardous or unpleasant substances. Following a successful trial on the M25 network, the vehicle will now form a crucial part of the CPS fleet.

“We are delighted to have worked with Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet to develop this innovative piece of equipment. In 2018 we collected over 50,000 bags of litter from the M25 and its surrounding roads, which requires extensive resource and expert planning to ensure the network remains clean and clear, with minimal impact on the travelling public,” said David Neal, managing director of CPS. “The M25 is one of the busiest and most strategic road networks in the UK. Through continuous innovation, we can reduce the time our highways maintenance teams spend litter picking on live highways networks, as we strive to create the safest working environment and better journeys for all.”

Nicola Bell, HE’s South East regional director, said: “Hundreds of thousands of people use the M25 each day, and litter is a real problem. Rubbish on roads can cause a hazard to drivers, our workers and wildlife. This innovative vehicle will help roadworkers to clear litter much more quickly than picking it by hand, and will also free up time for other maintenance and safety priorities.”

Andy Ormerod, managing director of Balfour Beatty’s Plant and Fleet Services business, said, “With health and safety at the heart of everything we do, we are pleased to have been able to provide an innovative solution to our workforce which reduces risk and increases productivity. Our expert capabilities have allowed us to design and build a state-of-the-art piece of equipment, taking into consideration challenges currently being faced by those working on highways projects.”

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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.