Holistic strategies for Highways England
As part of developing a sustainability and environmental strategy, England’s road authority, Highways England, needed to better understand its true impacts and developed holistic activities to drive improvements across the network and through its supply chain.
Technical Director, Environment & HealthM: +44 7436 545 408
Senior ConsultantM: +44 7773 950 804
Ramboll has partnered Highways England since 2006, providing advice on sustainability and environmental performance improvement which has allowed Highways England to better balance the need for economic growth while ensuring England’s strategic road network lives more harmoniously with its surroundings to deliver an improved environment.
Highways England is the national road authority for England, responsible for operating, maintaining and improving England’s 8,000km of motorways and major roads. It is vital for Highways England that they employ, and are seen to employ, a sustainable approach to maintaining and improving the strategic road network, and with the UK’s commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2050 this pressure will only increase.
Our sustainability advice and innovative solutions allow Highways England to understand and manage the impacts of the design and construction of highway improvement projects, as well as the operation and maintenance of the highway network. Highways England engages us to continuously develop bespoke solutions that address the unique requirements of managing the UK’s most important road network.
We have explored and helped implement innovative approaches to driving improvements across carbon emissions, climate change, noise, air quality, water quality, flooding and biodiversity. The lengthy partnership goes beyond looking at just Highways England in isolation and stretches out to influence the supply-chain and customers.
Highways England needs to understand its environmental impact as a business and establish baseline conditions, and we have helped Highways England develop its baseline understanding and measure impacts with more rigour.
We have supported Highways England across a range of areas, including;
- We recently identified and quantified sustainability impacts at a network wide level. This work was based on the Five Capitals Model of Sustainable Development, which extends the understanding of sustainability to include natural, social, human, economic and built capitals. This model produced a more structured and holistic understanding of sustainability, forming the basis of Highways England’s Sustainable Development Strategy.
- We worked with Highways England to deliver the business’ Environmental Strategy and Action Plans. The strategy has established an important vision for Highways England, and the Action Plans are now driving improvements in environmental data and structured systems for managing the environment, as well as working more closely in partnership with other stakeholders, such as the Environment Agency.
- Our carbon calculator tool calculates carbon emissions for operational, construction and maintenance activities undertaken by suppliers on behalf of Highways England. It has moved the agenda for the Highways England supply-chain from one of carbon counting to one of carbon management. This has enabled a more detailed carbon baseline to be established and a more active approach to incentivising carbon reduction by the supply chain.
- Highways England is alive to the potential of technology and innovation brings in the design, construction, maintenance and operation of their highway network. Ramboll is market leader in automated gantry design and modelling, such that structural design now takes hours rather than days, and greatly reduces plant usage and time required on site, improving safety. We can now optimise designs in conjunction with the standardisation of components, reducing material usage and associated carbon.
- We continue to innovate with Highways England, most recently developing automated processes and machine learning to analyse multi-scale aerial imagery of the environments surrounding their road network, to monitor them more often and more cost-effectively, enabling Highways England to improve environmental performance and prioritise investment into the areas that need it most.
Towards a sustainable road network
The sustainability advice we consistently provide allows Highways England and their supply chain to make informed decisions on the environmental and sustainability impacts of enhancements to the road network. The structured and measurable approach we have engendered keeps sustainability considerations at the forefront of the Highways England agenda.
- 448 noise important areas (IAs) mitigated during 2017-18
- 10,000 trees planted along the roadside in the south-west
- 40 flooding hotspots mitigated in 2018
- 12 diesel vehicles switched to electric vans
- 38 continuous air quality monitoring stations installed
- 2,800 tonnes of planings (material removed from road surface) diverted from landfill and encapsulated into recycled aggregates.
- 204 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent saved through use of low temperature asphalt