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Bug hotels part of plan to protect wildlife on the A38 in Devon

The A38 in Devon

Highways England is trialling a cutting edge biotechnology system on the A38 in Devon as part of a £30 million Biodiversity Plan.

A bio-engineered filtration pond will act like a reed bed, using a soil specifically designed to trap dissolved pollutants in the water run-off.

Such water can contain harmful pollutants from the road and adjacent farmland, impacting the water quality and harming wildlife.

If successful, the system could be rolled out across the country, says Highways England.

The scheme started yesterday (10 June) and is expected to continue for 14 weeks, although Highways England is hoping to “limit the impact on traffic”.

A tunnel will be bored under the A38 to modify the existing drainage system and divert the run-off water into the new treatment centre. Two overnight closures are planned for the A38 in August, along with temporary traffic lights on the B3380 between the Dean Burn overbridge and the westbound sliproad during June and August.

The Biodiversity Plan says that verges and associated land can be managed to provide areas of habitat, relatively free from human access.

To this end, bug hotels, butterfly scrapes and bee banks are also being installed as part of the works on the A38.

Tarmacadam and the ants

The A30 in Cornwall

Over the last 12 months, Highways England has worked on grassland and wildflower creation projects in Devon and Cornwall, along with a scheme to protect the habitat of the narrow-headed ant, England’s rarest ant, on the A38.

Project manager Michelle Reed said: “We are delighted to be able to work on such a worthwhile pilot environmental scheme, especially as it is the first time this system has been used on the strategic road network in England.

“The filtration system provides a physical barrier to polluted water, then chemical and biological mechanisms work in combination to break down even more pollutants. It also has the advantage of taking up far less space than other treatment systems, which makes it very cost effective.

“When completed, this work should significantly improve the quality of water running into Dean Burn and help to support the local environment and its wildlife.”

A428 upgrade will save commuters up to 90 minutes

A428 uprade

Highways England has unveiled plans for a major upgrade to the A428 between Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. The work could eventually cut 90 minutes from journey times.

A final plan for a new 10-mile dual carriageway between Bedfordshire’s Black Cat roundabout and Cambridgeshire’s Caxton Gibbet roundabout is up for consultation. Over the course of eight weeks, local residents will be able to meet with the project team at events throughout the area.

A428 upgrade

The road is due to replace the only remaining piece of single carriageway being used as a major connection between Cambridge and Milton Keynes – a known congestion hotspot. At present, it’s carrying up to twice the traffic it was designed for, including through various rural communities.

Planning permission for the project will be sought early next year. “The current A428 can get painfully congested – in fact it is in the worst 20 per cent of roads for delays in the whole country,” said Highways England A428 programme lead, Lee Galloway.

A428 upgrade

“Our plans will make a real difference, improving people’s journeys, reducing rat-running on local roads and better linking the two key economic hubs of Milton Keynes and Cambridge, with economic benefits being felt across the whole region.”

“These important upgrades will not only relieve congestion but will also link businesses and communities helping to boost the region’s economy and make a real difference to people’s lives,” followed Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary.

£1 billion ‘trans-Pennine’ A66 road upgrade confirmed

Trans-Pennine A66 upgrade

Plans for a £1 billion upgrade to the A66 road have been unveiled by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. The road connects the east and the west of the North of England.

Highways England plans to broaden the remaining 18 miles of the A66 that are, at present, single-lane, in line with the rest of the route which is a dual carriageway. An eight-week consultation into options for the completion of the project has now been launched. It will explore how the upgrade should be carried out on varying sections of the road.

Trans-Pennine A66 upgrade

Some sections of the route will benefit from a straightforward ‘dualling’, while others could be freed up by a bypass. Examples of the latter include the five-mile Appleby to Brough section, and the more residential areas of Kirkby Thore and Crackenthorpe.

Overall, the goal is to ease congestion at peak times and improve journey times across the country. Once operational, speed limits across the A66 are likely to be increased.

The road is an industrial lifeline between for the region. It stretches 50 miles between Penrith in Cumbria and Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire. The upgrade, while benefitting local residents, will benefit freight and port routes across the country, better linking the likes of Stanraer to Hull, Felixstowe and beyond.

“Dualling the A66 will not only mean drivers’ journeys are quicker, safer and more reliable across the Pennines, but is part of our pledge to ensure that the business opportunities of the Northern Powerhouse spread out from the great cities of the North of England to every city, town and rural community from the Midlands to the Scottish Lowlands,” said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Upgrading the trans-Pennine route is a part of a much larger plan to upgrade highways in the North of England.

Trans-Pennine A66 upgrade

“We are investing a record £13 billion to improve journeys across the North of England,” the Transport Secretary said.

“The A66 connects businesses, communities and families across the north of England, and this highly anticipated upgrade is great news for the local, and regional economies and will improve the national road network,” commented Highways England chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan.

Military bomb-protection lorries to be used on UK motorways

Highways England crash barriers

Highways England is rolling out massive crash-barrier lorries to protect road workers. The 16-tonne trucks are among a range of innovations being trialled, including solar-powered CCTV cameras and self-driving dump trucks.

The barriers were originally used by the army to shield against roadside bombs. The enormous metal framework absorbs side impacts, while cushions at the rear protect approaching cars. 

The barriers have been brought over from the United States and put to use in the West Midlands.

Call the Cones Hotline!

Highways England crash barriers

The protection the lorries provide is only one side of the coin. In most roadworks, large areas are coned off around where work is being carried out. The 70-ft-long barriers mean less of the road has to be disrupted to keep workers safe.

In addition, they take fewer man-hours to deploy than cones, signs and lighting: a win-win.

“The mobile barriers, which are being used for the first time in Europe, are an innovative way of looking at how we can increase protection for road workers,” said Martin Bolt, head of innovation projects for Highways England.

“And they’re helping customers, because the faster we can get the work safely done, the better people’s journeys will be.”

Solar-powered CCTV and self-driving trucks

Driving habits emissions

The big barriers aren’t the only upgrades happening. Four new mobile solar CCTV cameras have also been introduced.

They will be used in multiple locations throughout the West Midlands, including temporary spots like roadworks.

A fleet of autonomous dump trucks is also being trialled on the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon. These earth-movers will be able to operate 24/7, increasing the speed at which work can be completed.

Fewer humans on site means less risk, too. Well worth the £150,000 investment, hopes Highways England.

Free-flowing motorway traffic

Highways England to lift roadworks for Bank Holiday

Free-flowing motorway trafficAs many roadworks on motorways and major roads in England will be lifted this Friday to help Bank Holiday travellers.

By 6am on Friday 22 May, around 400 miles of roadworks will be removed or suspended.

Furthermore, because of planned industrial action on the rail network, they will not be reinstated until 6am, Thursday 28 May.

By lifting 155 sets of roadworks currently operating, 96.9% of the 9.534 miles of major road across England will be free from roadworks.

Director of customer operations at Highways England, Simon Sheldon-Wilson, said: “We will be doing everything possible to manage traffic.

“We’ll have extra traffic offer patrols and recovery vehicles on standby, and we’ll keep customers informed with real-time travel information online and via variable message signs.

“Motorways and major routes are likely to be even busier than usual if the planned industrial action goes ahead,” he added.

“We anticipate that customers may start noticing a difference in traffic during Friday afternoon and evening.”

To help travellers plan ahead, Highways England has also created a list of potential traffic hotspots, and vows to broadcast the latest travel information on its main website.

The government agency did add that, for safety purposes, roadworks will remain at 63 locations – and it’s created a map showing where they’ll be left in place.

Highways Agency

Highways England to replace Highways Agency on 1 April

Highways AgencyThe government has confirmed a new company, Highways England, will take over responsibility for England’s motorways and major A-roads on 1 April. Read more