Improving Road Works and Reaching Net Zero: TRANSPORT Smart Class, Scotland 2023 Retrospective


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Kevin Hamilton was appointed as Scottish Road Works Commissioner in November 2020 for a five year term. The role was established in the 2005 Transport Scotland Act as an independent public official, appointed by Scottish Ministers to monitor all roadworks in Scotland, promote compliance with the New Road and Streetworks Act, and encourage best practice in the sector. Based in Edinburgh, Kevin and his team are passionate about improving the management of roads assets, harnessing new technology and minimising the impact of road works activity on people and the environment.

Kevin joined us at TRANSPORT Smart Class, Scotland 2023 to tell us more about the role and powers of the Scottish Road Works Commissioner, the central Scottish Road Works Register and its importance in assisting roads authorities and utilities to meet their duties in planning and co-ordination of works. The information contained in the register also gives insight into the scale and nature of roads authority and utility works, and Kevin’s keynote addressed some of the impacts such works have on road users and the road asset.

His presentation also examined the national coring programme which monitors reinstatement quality and recent research into the life of reinstatements. Finally, Kevin looked forward to further measures that are needed to continue to improve reinstatement quality with initiatives to achieve lower impact, durable reinstatements as we transition to a net zero world.

Summary of presentation highlights:

  • Scottish Road Works Commissioner – Role, powers and penalties;
  • Scottish Road Works Register (SRWR) – This central register is a GIS map based system which allows a visual representation of where works are being planned and undertaken; the system includes VAULT, which contains information on the location of pipes, cables and other apparatus; currently voluntary, submission of information to the VAULT will become mandatory in 2024; as well as allowing work to be better planned and coordinated, the system contains a wealth of data that can assist in measuring and improving performance both locally and nationally; is the public facing version of the register;
  • Key Duties in Road Works – The duty of road authorities to coordinate works and utilities to cooperate and reinstate;
  • Carbon Impact of Road Works and the Road to Net Zero Project – HAUC UK, with TfL, began a project in March 2022 to assess impact, scope and opportunities to reduce the street and road works sector’s impact on climate change; initial discovery phase is complete and estimates that road works UK-wide create approx. 38 million tonnes of CO2e per annum, equating to 9% of UK carbon emissions; Scotland is probably responsible for 10% of UK emissions; despite only comprising 17% of total activity, major road works account for 43% of all sector emissions; LGVs taking people and equipment to site are the biggest contributor; Road to Net Zero Charter launched by HAUC UK in April 2023; next stage of the Road to Net Zero project is a design phase, where solutions will be developed before moving on to a delivery phase;

  • Road Works in Scotland – Utilities and road authorities (both local authorities and Transport Scotland) need to dig up roads; 150,000+ road works jobs started in Scotland last year of which three-quarters of works were for utilities and most (60%) on footways; increased activity in recent years has mainly been driven by role out of fibre broadband; level of activity will remain high due to predicted increase in EV charging infrastructure, electricity grid reinforcement and heat networks;
  • The Problem – Poor reinstatements lead to potential increases in traffic congestion, long term damage to roads, potholes, increased repair costs and increased carbon emissions;
  • The Solution – Durable reinstatements are possible; Compliance with standards is key; Specification for Reinstatement of Openings in Roads (SROR) 4th edition; How doe we know whether reinstatements are meeting the requirements of the specification?
  • National Coring Programme – Local authorities have powers to undertake coring inspections on any reinstatement but often don’t due to perceived cost, lack of resources and possibly a lack of expertise within roads teams; Scotland has been carrying out a national coring programme every 2 years for over 20 years now – in 2001 only 44% of cores taken met the expectation but this had risen to 88% in 2019 and latest results will show further improvement to a pass rate of 90%; Inconsistency, however, across sectors e.g. Water sector – 95% pass, Telecoms – 80% pass; Two key reasons for the improvement are 1) establishment of the coring programme itself after first, somewhat shocking, results and 2) issuing of penalties for failing to achieve required standard; even a 90% pass rate still equates to 15,000 failed reinstatements every year;

  • Local Authority Inspections – We don’t just rely on the national coring program, LA inspectors also can also inspect all reinstatements if they wish and a limited number – called ‘sample inspections’ and carried out at three stages of the work – can be charged to the utilities; 7439 Sample C (carried out 3 months prior to end of guarantee) carried out in Scotland in 2021-22 with a 93.2% pass rate;
  • Research Project funded by the Scottish Road Research Board – Recently completed, this project provides additional evidence on reinstatement quality and involved a visual assessment of over 100 reinstatements which had been passed in the national coring programme over the past 10 years – reinstatement durability does seem to have improved since last research in 2021 but main issue identified related to joints: over 75% of reinstatements exhibited open joints which (although generally fit for purpose) increase risk of accelerated failure and pothole formation;
  • The Future – Revised Specification (SROR); Six-year guarantee period; Introduction of a whole Scotland trial and approval system and innovative trial methods; Commissioner powers enhanced in 2024;
  • Conclusion – Excavation and reinstatement is necessary and increasing but causes disruption and damage, potentially shortening life of the road asset; Utility reinstatement quality has improved in Scotland over past 20 years but more needs to be done and we continue to seek further improvements

If you meet our regular delegate qualification criteria but were unable to join us at Riddle’s Court, Edinburgh, for the live in-person event on September 7th, CLICK HERE and complete the short “Download form” (located at the bottom of the post) to receive a unique link enabling free access to the presentation video recordings and slides (including the film footage and slides from Kevin’s keynote).

Those qualifying to receive the rich presentation content from this event include commissioning, procurement, trialling, partnering and policy leads, senior influencers, strategic decision makers and planners from local authorities (e.g. city, borough, metropolitan, district and county councils); public transport operators; regional transport partnerships, sub-regional transport bodies, combined authorities, integrated transport authorities and passenger transport executives; highways authorities and road operators; government and supporting national transport agencies; fleet operators, parking operators, prime contractors etc.

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TRANSPORT Smart Class, Scotland 2023

On September 7th we will be casting a spotlight over Scotland, hosting our speakers discussions on how the latest digital innovations can help overcome the transport and mobility challenges faced by the city-regions of Glasgow & Clyde Valley, Edinburgh & South East Scotland, Stirling, Tay, Aberdeen, Inverness & Highlands, and beyond.


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