According to the government, traffic jams caused by road closures cost the UK economy £4.3 billion last year. So, what are our options?
The issue has been brought to our attention in the last year by new initiatives such as the Lane Rental Scheme, which is already being implemented on more than half of London’s roads. The Lane Rental Scheme means that the contractor is charged a daily fee for each day a road is closed due to construction. This is intended to reduce delays and disruption, especially in congested areas, but it can cost contractors a lot of money if their work schedule includes digging up, closing, or partially obscuring a right of way for any length of time.
Infrastructure experts have demonstrated how a single coned-off section of pipe maintenance work on a main road, even if only a few feet long, can cause traffic tailbacks of miles in some cases. For all of the reasons stated above, this is a major headache for the contractors performing the work.
There is, however, one successful solution to this multibillion-dollar problem, and it comes from a group of British manufacturers.
MCL of Staffordshire, whose UK-made composite products range from metre boxes and kiosks to fire-resistant chambers, has collaborated with another UK manufacturer – Radlock Systems Ltd – to develop a solution that is expected to save our economy hundreds of millions of pounds per year.
This collaboration has used years of research and development to create a new product called Radlock.
MCL’s executive chairman, Bob Moore, explains the significance of the solution we developed: “According to Transport Research Laboratory research, road closures cost the UK £4.3 billion last year” (TRL). The new product, a composite road plate system, allows these trenches to be safely covered far more quickly, allowing roads to be reopened around 30% faster and more quickly overnight and on weekends.”
It is estimated that excavations or open cut trenches in the carriageway cause 40% of national road congestion; therefore, if contractors across the UK adopted the Radlock System, the UK economy would save approximately £0.5 billion.
Radlock is the only approved composite roadplate system across the Transport London Road Network, and is gaining industry recognition all over the UK, including from bodies such as National Grid, National Joint Utilities Group, and Transport for London. Bob Moore goes on:
“We are also ecstatic to have been awarded National Grid Best Practice for this product – we are grateful to contractor Fastflow Energy Services for its recommendation.”
“The many advantages of this system over traditional steel roadplates are obvious,” says Tony Cottrell, managing director of Radlock Systems. It is lighter and faster to install, increases site operator safety because it is a two-man lift, and improves road safety due to its high visibility and non-slip surface. A standard road crossing is deployed in minutes without drilling the road surface, resulting in unprecedented congestion reduction.”
In one recent trial, it was demonstrated how quickly a two-man team can cover a trench by simply lining up the Radlock plates over the trench, turning a handle to lock them in place, and then opening the road to allow traffic – including heavy goods vehicles – to drive over them. In contrast, heavy lifting, drilling, and bolting steel roadplates over the same trench would take the same contractor hours to complete.
Furthermore, once the trench has been covered with steel roadplates, one of the biggest risks to the contractor is theft. There are numerous reports of criminal gangs driving vans with no floors over a steel roadplate, stopping the vehicle, hoisting the roadplate inside, and selling it for its considerable scrap value, leaving a serious danger of an open trench behind. A composite solution eliminates this issue as well.
Radlock is already in use on UK roads, having been successfully piloted by clients such as National Grid and Scottish and Southern Energy. It is now being rolled out across the country as other contractors and clients recognise its effectiveness.