Roads roundup

The news that both the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Transport (DfT) have provisionally agreed with the Chancellor George Osborne to reduce resource spending by 30% over the next four years could have severe consequences for the funding of local road maintenance, according to Howard Robinson of the Road Surface Treatments Association. Local government funding is the largest part of DCLG’s spend. Therefore, the concern is that the 30% spend reduction will affect most areas of local government spend including road maintenance. The Chancellor has implied that the cut refers mainly to housing subsidies but local councils wishing to maintain levels of subsidy may raid highway maintenance budgets. Similarly, the 30% reduction in the Dft budget spending on resources, a significant £2.1bn of which is transferred to local government, could see reductions in local transport services such as buses and community transport again with highway maintenance budgets being used to make up the short fall. “There is a real concern that these reported agreed spending cuts, although not directly concerned with highway maintenance, could have a detrimental knock-on effect as local authorities try to find the funding from elsewhere”, Robinson warned.

WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff has been awarded a £2M design contract to trial innovative noise reduction barriers on sites along the M40 between junction 3 and junction 8 which have been identified as areas where road noise is a particular issue and help decide where the barriers would be of benefit. Earlier this year, Highways England, working in partnership with the M40 Chiltern Environmental Group, (M40 CEG) Wycombe District Council and South Oxfordshire District Council, ran a competition to develop a range of cost-effective barriers to reduce noise. Potential designs include using solar panels in the barriers to produce clean energy to help offset their installation and operating costs. Six entries were shortlisted and WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff will now work with the designers of the shortlisted entries to trial these noise barriers at the identified sites on the M40. These designs may also be installed on other parts of England’s strategic road network in the future.

Balfour Beatty’s ECI work has led to it being confirmed as contractor for the the £104M Norfolk Northern Distributor Raod. The new 19.5km dual carriageway will serve Broadland in Norfolk and improve access to North Norfolk international airport and  Great Yarmouth.

A new section of smart motorway is being soft launched on 5 December on the M1 near Wakefield. A 50mph speed limit will remain in place while for Highways England test the technology before the first phase of the system goes live on a 7.5 mile stretch between junction 39 (Denby Dale) and junction 41 (Morley) on Saturday 12 December. An extra lane will also open on the northbound carriageway between junction 41 and junction 42 (Lofthouse). Contractor for the section is bmJV and designers are Hyder Halcrow joint venture.