Highways England launches plan to push technology in infrastructure

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A digital revolution in construction could increase productivity and save billions of pounds, as Highways England announces the launch of its 15-year plan to accelerate the use of technology in infrastructure

Highways England called on the industry to accelerate the use of technology in infrastructure and construction, while it launched its new 15-year plan.

Connected and autonomous plant (CAP) is already being used to transform activities across the UK construction sector, including the use of robotic trucks on Britain’s biggest road project, the recently opened A14 improvement.

Now the government body, with partners TRL and the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P), has set out a vision where the use of CAP techniques will become standard industry practice by 2035.

It has been estimated productivity improvements achieved via CAP could exceed £400bn by 2040.

Work quicker and safer

Highways England chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan, said: “Connected and autonomous plant will make work safer and quicker.

“The Roadmap lays out the benefits and addresses the barriers to making this a reality.

“We are confident the Roadmap will help our supply chain to rapidly make this the norm on our worksites.”

The CAP Roadmap was developed through collaboration with more than 100 industry stakeholders.

It predicts that the use of technology in infrastructure could:

  • Reduce fatalities in the construction sector by 37%
  • Improve productivity by up to £400Bn by 2040
  • See annual savings of £53bn across new construction work
  • Assist with 47% of construction activities currently performed
  • See road construction deliver benefits of >£3bn between now and 2035.

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 said: “This work charts an extremely exciting and potentially game changing route as to how we operate our sites as we build Britain.

“My challenge to our industry is to take the steps we can take today to improve our future, moving forwards together to make our people more efficient, and safer than ever.”

The Roadmap sets out nine workstreams focusing on key areas.

Alex Wright, chief technologist for TRL, added: “The CAP roadmap has been developed collaboratively with more than 75 organisations.

“Through a wide variety of questionnaires and workshops, we identified the actions required to overcome the various technical, business and legislative challenges to delivering the vision.

“Overall, the Roadmap brings together nine pathways which have been identified to deliver success by 2035. This includes elements from legislation, regulation and policy as well as factors facilitating finance and investment and an understanding of the skills gaps.”

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