02/04/2017

Peter James & Partners News 33

TRANSPORT NEWS

There has been a call for the government to develop a new ‘mobility investment strategy’ that will be aimed at reducing the demand for car-based transport. The report carried out by the environmental group Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) calls for road capacity upgrades to become the “option of last resort” when planning transport infrastructure. Instead it suggests measures to minimise demand for travel, widen transport choices and improve network efficiency.

The study is based on analysis of over 80 completed strategic road projects and also claims that, contrary to popular belief, there is weak evidence that road building produces economic benefits. The CPRE suggests that Government should drop plans to increase capacity on England’s motorways and major A roads to focus instead on maintenance and developing a new ‘mobility investment strategy’.

Calls have been made for a new strategy to be set out for the North to champion growth initiatives, including a new transport strategy. Think tank IPPR North has suggested a ‘Council of the North’ to be formed to bring together six combined authorities, three county councils and 10 unitary authorities across northern England. The new Council would allow the region to speak with one voice and have more powers to invest in schemes such as High Speed 3.

It is proposed that the Council would meet at least four times a year and the new arrangement be overseen by a Northern Citizens Assembly made up of members of the public. Report author Ed Cox said: “As we leave the EU, city and county leaders will find themselves as very small fish in a big global pond if they opt to go it alone. But working together, the North’s £300Bn economy carries real clout. A Council of the North would help boost growth and lead to better public services, while northerners – and not politicians – could find their voice through a Northern Citizens Assembly.”

 There should be greater consultation with disabled and elderly persons when improvements to transport services are being considered, a conference heard last week. Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee chair Keith Richards said: “Innovators who have fantastic new ideas must always ask how a transport system and its constituent parts would look and feel if they were designed and developed by a disabled person.”

 Mr. Richards said that in some cases new ticket machines or smartphone apps are not designed, built or installed with disabled or older people in mind and have to be rectified retrospectively at great expense. He gave an example of modern car park ticket machines featuring small buttons where motorists are asked for their vehicle registration. Some older people “simply don’t have the manual dexterity to manage those machines”. He also expressed caution over the move towards driver only operated trains coupled with increasingly unstaffed stations.

Westminster Bridge and the surrounding area will be transformed into a safer, more pleasant place for pedestrian and cyclists is underway. The 155-year-old bridge will become the fourth in central London to have segregated cycle lanes, with the south-side junction remodelled to make it easier to cross for pedestrians. The work was planned and announced before last week’s attack on pedestrians on the bridge and subsequently at the Palace of Westminster.

TfL says the transformation of the Westminster Bridge area will provide benefits for pedestrians and cyclists, in line with the Mayor’s new Healthy Streets vision by improving pedestrian access with three upgraded pedestrian crossings and new pedestrian countdown timers, improving links into the wider cycling network such as the East-West Cycle Superhighway and the Central London Cycling Grid and making the area more pleasant with new trees and benches.

HIGHWAYS & INFRASTRUCTURE NEWS

Travel to Manchester Airport has been boosted with the completion of a dual carriageway project by Highways England. The £192m A556 Knutsford to Bowdon was officially opened last week, which completes a 7.5km link between the M6 and the M56. The dual carriageway bypasses the old A556 and several small villages to provide more reliable journeys for those travelling north towards Manchester Airport. It is the first major project in the North West to be completed under the Government’s Road Investment Strategy.

The Contractor for the project Costain will now turn its efforts towards converting the old A556 to a single carriageway local road that will be known as the B5569. Work will also continue over the next few weeks to complete a ‘green bridge’ over the new road for crossings by wildlife and farm animals. In total the A556 upgrade includes construction of seven new bridges and has seen over 200,000m² of surface course rolled out for the new road surface.

Decisive action is needed to ensure the success of the Government’s Road Investment Strategy which now faces deliverability and affordability risks following its hasty development according to the National Audit Office (NAO). It published a report on progress with the strategy today that calls on Highways England and the Department for Transport (DfT) to agree an updated delivery plan for the remainder of the current five year funding period which ends in 2020.

The NAO’s report highlights that the DfT planned the strategy in 17 months in order to publish it before the May 2015 General Election. As a result it selected the 112 enhancement projects that make up the strategy without knowing enough about whether the portfolio represented best value. The NAO also points out that 54 schemes are currently programmed to start in 2019-20 which is expected to cause significant disruption to the road network, drive up prices and put pressure on resources. Highways England is now reviewing its pipeline of projects and has so far identified 16 which present a risk to value for money.

STRUCTURES NEWS

The new Sunderland bridge has completed its deck launch after three hundred metres of bridge deck weighing 4750t was carefully pushed into position using hydraulic jacks on the New Wear Crossing project. The two day launch was completed last week and saw the deck guided from the south embankment to the north through a 105m tall A-frame central pylon in the middle of the river. A further 30m section of deck will be constructed this summer on the north side of the river to complete the full length of the bridge.

The New Wear Crossing is phase two of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor, which is a five phase plan to improve links between the A19, the city centre and the port. Work is being carried out by a joint venture of Farrans Construction and Victor Buyck Steel Construction, with Atkins providing project supervision. The structure will open to traffic next spring. Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said the bridge “will inject investment, jobs and pride into our city and will be the catalyst for regeneration and development along the riverbank.”

There are concerns over poor bridge conditions after a new study has found that Six councils in Britain each have more than 100 substandard bridges that are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles. The RAC Foundation says that there are more than 3000 substandard council maintained bridges in the country, out of around 72,000 on the local road network. Some of the councils with the highest number of substandard bridges include Devon, Somerset and Essex.

It is pointed out by the report that many of the substandard bridges have weight restrictions and others will be under programmes of increased monitoring or managed decline. The one off cost to bring all substandard bridges back to perfect condition is thought to be around £890M, but the total costs of clearing the backlog of work on all bridges is estimated at £3.9Bn. Councils are said to be spending around £447M a year maintaining their entire bridge stock.

MIDDLE EAST NEWS

Speed limits on two of Dubai’s main highways could be lowered in a bid to reduce the number of accidents, it has been announced. The plan has been put forward following a meeting between the Roads and Transport Authority and Dubai Police, state news agency WAM reported. The two parties are considering lowering the speed limit from 120km/h to 110km/h and resetting the radar at 131km/h on Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road and Emirates Road.

Discussions also touched on the management of traffic accidents in Dubai with the aim of reducing the time taken in managing traffic accidents and restoring the traffic movement back to normal as quickly as possible. Under this project, the RTA said it will provide logistical support needed by the police in managing traffic accidents by opening alternative roads and introducing traffic diversions.

Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai has approved the award of two contracts worth AED1.2 billion ($330 million) to build key roads in the emirate. The two contracts cover the 7th Interchange on Sheikh Zayed Road, as well as Al Yalayis and Al Asayel Roads, state news agency WAM reported. It said the work will enhance the link between Sheikh Zayed Road and both Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road and Emirates Road while also easing the traffic flow on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said construction work on the road and transport projects would start immediately. The project will raise the capacity of Al Yalayis Road to almost 10,000 vehicles per hour per direction and will also cut short the transit time between the 7th Interchange on Sheikh Zayed Road and the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road to as little as four minutes, he added.

Careem (Dubai-based ride-hailing service) has announced that it is now integrated into Google Maps for its operations across the UAE. The company said in a statement that the move is aimed at further strengthening its commitment to user experience and convenience. The service is currently available on Android and iOS to users in the UAE and will be rolled out across the other markets in the region in the coming weeks, Careem said. It added that the integration of Careem’s services with Google Maps means a faster ride-hailing experience for users of both the apps.

For users searching for directions in Google Maps, a tap on the ride-hailing icon on the far right will reveal the closest available Careem cars, along with the expected pick-up time and fare estimate for a ride to their selected destination. Wael Nafee, VP of product at Careem, said: “As the go-to app for directions and navigation, Google Maps is an extremely popular service and integrating Careem within the app means users can now take advantage of the benefits of both the apps simultaneously.”

Sources : Local Transport Today, Transport Xtra, Jobs in Transport, Department for Transport, RAC Foundation, Highways England, Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation, Institution of Structural Engineers, LinkedIn, Transport Planning Society, ArabianBusiness.com, Gulf News, The Telegraph.