November 15th, the Utility Industry assembled at Westminster for the Street Works UK Awards 2017 (formerly NJUG). The awards celebrate innovation and diligence across the gas, water & electricity sectors. And we are thrilled to have won the Street Works Future Award for the LowPro 15/10: replacement for steel plates in driveways.
The Oxford Plastics LowPro 15/10 overcomes the many issues caused by cumbersome steel plates to create safe and easy access for residents to their homes during routine Utility works
Handling methods of steel plates require either HIAB lifting equipment or in some cases mini diggers. Neither was deemed acceptable in the residential environment, with steel plates also being over-engineered for this application.
And so, collaborating with tRIIO & the Oxford Plastics Research & Development Team, we set to work designing a safe and simple solution that would enable residents to access to their homes during Utility work excavations.
The rapid adoption of this innovative solution across the Utilities and construction industry is testimony to its creation. The LowPro 15/10 solves an industry problem that has been around for years, and ties in directly with Street Works UK’s key goals: safety, high quality, minimise disruption & innovation.
Feedback from Users
“At Wales & West Utilities our essential work to respond to gas emergencies, connect new homes and businesses and upgrade the gas network can mean that we have to dig in footpaths and driveways. The Oxford Plastics products we use meet all our needs and removes safety concerns around the use of traditional steel plates. The Oxford LowPro 15/10 is quick and easy to install. It’s a time and money saver; helping us to deliver value for money to our customers while keeping disruption to customers, road users and other members of the community to a minimum.”
Street Works Manager
Wales & West Utilities Limited
“Balfour Beatty provide the essential infrastructure assets societies need to function, develop and thrive. Our teams operate across the full infrastructure lifecycle and address long-term challenges. We harness innovation to improve safety and minimise this essential work has on local communities and the investment in the Low Pro 15/10 product has helped us to deliver this goal. The product has also been part of the development of the HAUC advice note on the specification and Operational requirements for footway boards, Driveway Boards, Footway Ramps and Road Plates.”
In the UK we focus a lot of time & energy on keeping traffic flowing around roadworks. Alas, it’s a tale we all know well; the morning commute run amok while you wait for your turn to weave past roadworks, those gloating traffic lights flashing a big red “WAIT” on your way to work…
All of this could be changing soon with the trials of Lane Rental Schemes. The scheme would charge Utility companies for street works repairs during ‘peak times’, meaning less congestion for Jo Public.
However, Street Works UK (formerly NJUG) doesn’t quite see it the same way. NJUG Chief Executive Bob Gallienne said in September of this year: “Lane rental schemes make it harder for Utility companies to deliver vital infrastructure and value for money for consumers while minimising disruption.
Rather, Street Works UK proposes a new initiative to tackle the issue and will be speaking with major Utility companies to discuss how to move forward.
“This consultation is a chance to explore how disruption can be reduced for road users at the same time as minimising the policy burden on Utility companies. NJUG is currently working with a range of stakeholders to develop a Future Strategy for Street Works, setting out a blue print for delivering world class street works.”
In a bid to reduce congestion caused by roadworks at peak times, Gloucester County Council considers new tariffs for Utility companies. The initiative is being considered to minimise the heavy traffic caused when roadworks are installed.
Gloucester Council looks to charge gas, water and electricity companies if they intent to carry out works at peak times and high-traffic areas. The new proposal would charge companies by the hour and could be implemented in 2019.
There are 2.5 million roadworks now in action in the UK, costing the British economy £4 billion per annum because people cannot get to work on time or deliveries are delayed.
Gloucester County Council’s reduced congestion plan comes after trials in London and Kent, where congestion caused by utility roadworks has fallen by over 50%.
The scheme encourages utility companies to work together to coordinate their maintenance works and reduce disruption on carriageways. Utility companies in London are 6 times more likely to work together since the trials began.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Delays caused by roadworks can be the bane of drivers’ lives – especially when they take place at rush hour on busy routes.
“These proposals would give councils greater powers to ensure utility companies avoid carrying out works at the busiest times and on the most popular routes.
“This would not only improve journeys and cut congestion but also save businesses from the increased costs they incur as a result of traffic on our roads.”
Navigating roadworks can be disorientating and even hazardous for people with a disability and this matter can go overlooked by roadworks contractors and manufacturers. This is why on August 23rd Oxford Plastics, hosted the inaugural Disability in Roadworks: Awareness Day.
The awareness day brought together people with visual, hearing, and mobility impairments that used canes, guide dogs, hearing aids, manual and electric wheelchairs, and motorised scooters when travelling through roadworks. Members of the local council and people from the street works industry were also present to discuss accessibility in roadworks.
Event organisers, Oxford Plastics, set up a roadworks demonstration area outside of University of East Anglia’s student union. There was a range of currently-used temporary street furniture and innovative, new products, which attendees were encouraged to travel through. Throughout the day people within the industry and people with disabilities discussed the layout and application of roadworks, and how to work together to make them accessible and practical for all parties.
Dr Katherine Deane of UEA spoke to people at the Awareness Day. Dr Deane is working closely with the National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) to create best practice guidance and a training program for roadworks contractors. “The aim is to improve the design and set up of roadworks in order to ensure they are really accessible,” said Dr Deane.
Paul Braddy, Sales Director at Oxford Plastics said “there can be a tendency for contractors and utility companies to prioritise the flow of traffic, and not the accessibility of pedestrians. Feedback from the day shows that more dialogue is necessary among the public who travel through roadworks and those who set them up. On the day the primary concern for Industry representatives was having space to undertake work, whereas the priority for charity representatives was to have knowledge of the scale and layout of a roadworks site.”
According to research undertaken on the day, a key finding was that more communication is needed. The public find that roadworks are not labelled clearly and that the length and layout of roadworks should be explained online and/or on-site. All groups saw the importance of educating workers on equipment, legislation and the needs of people with disabilities.
“The Disability in Roadworks: Awareness Day shows that there is room for improvement in many areas,” said Charlotte Whiteley, Marketing Coordinator at Oxford Plastics. “This event has been pivotal for all of us at Oxford Plastics, and it will make a difference not just in the products we make, but in our understanding of accessibility.”
40 people the Norwich & Norfolk Councils, Deaf Connexions, Wymondham Access Group, Norwich Access Group, RNIB, NNAB, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Transport for London, Tarmac, Anglian Water, Kier, NJUG, CBRE, MJS Projects and the University of East Anglia were in attendance to address the subject of accessibility.
Anti-trip construction barrier that complies to the code of practice and equality act regulations.
The Oxford Plastics StrongWall Heavy Duty plastic Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Barrier is an extremely robust and stable barrier system which is designed to meet the demands of providing safe access for pedestrians through road or construction works (Chapter 8).
The barrier comes with an 18kg base which ensures that the barrier is stable in windy conditions.
• Compliant with Chapter 8 Streetworks.
• Heavy recycled base of 18kg – standard colour black.
• Top section is supplied in orange.
• High density (HD) moulded top section can be water filled, which will add a further 15kg.
• Designed for compact stacking to provide low transport costs.
• Anti-tamper linking system – prevents unauthorised dismantle.
• Can be personalised with corporate colour and logo as standard.
National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) says UK Government must listen to the Utilities Industry if they are to implement an effective modern industrial strategy.
In the Green Paper produced in Jan 2017, Building Our Industrial Strategy, the Government proposes 10 pillars that will drive industrial strategy across the economy which are:
1. Science, research and innovation
4. Business growth and investment
6. Trade and investment
7. Affordable energy
8. Sectoral policies
9. Driving growth across the whole country
10. Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places
In their official response to the paper, NJUG highlights the “critical” role that the Utilities Industry will play in executing several of these pillars, with a key focus on improving British infrastructure. NJUG, which is the only trade association representing utilities and their contractors on street works issues, calls for the Government to build a successful industrial strategy by taking a “strategic and coherent approach towards street works.”
NJUG raises the pertinent point that while street works are a key enabler of economic growth through infrastructure development, “they also have the potential to be an obstacle or blocker to work if our members’ ability to conduct street works is restricted…Local authorities have all the necessary powers to coordinate, plan and manage utility street works.”
However, it is also the central government and local authorities who have “consistently introduced new policy measures and regulations which increase the cost and compliance burden on utilities companies and contractors…This could undermine progress in delivering towards the Industrial Strategy, particularly pillars 3 and 7.”
The Green Paper says the objective of their modern industrial strategy is to “improve living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth” across the UK. NJUG sign off their response by saying that they are “keen to work across government to achieve” an approach to street works which “would provide the best possible opportunity for delivering on the Industrial Strategy’s ambitions while also promoting best practice in street works and reducing disruption for other road users.”
Oxford Plastic Systems Ltd is dedicated to designing new products that assist in reducing disruption while keeping safety standards as an utmost priority. Oxford Plastics works with and designs solutions for key utility companies, helping to facilitate NJUG’s vision for a safe and effectual Utilities Industry.