County council investing in roads and dealing with ice

By Surrey and Hants News in Transport

Hampshire County Council is set to spend £209million over the next three years on improving roads and infrastructure across the county.

This was one of a batch of proposals approved by Cllr Rob Humby, executive member for the environment and transport.

He said: “This planned investment programme would see us make use of government grants, bids and developer contributions over the next three years to improve transport infrastructure for people who live and work in Hampshire.”

Major highway schemes make up £100m of the proposed investment, including seven new projects expected to start in the next couple of years, depending on external funding.

One of these is the £4m Whitehill/Bordon A325 integration plan. Three of the others are in Fareham, with one each in Basingstoke, Farnborough and Southampton.

All are designed to relieve congestion, improve safety, cut journey times and encourage economic growth across the county.

Bridge and roads maintenance - including pothole repairs and resurfacing - will take up £108m.

The rest is set aside for the council’s flood risk and coastal defence plan, on which the authority is working closely with the Environment Agency to harness national funding so efforts can be concentrated where they are needed most.

Cllr Humby said: “Although we have to make some difficult decisions about where to prioritise resources, we are acutely aware that Hampshire’s highway network is critical to the economic success of Hampshire - which is a significant contributor to the national economy.

“Investment in vital transport infrastructure not only improves day-to-day travel for residents and businesses in Hampshire but also unlocks potential economic growth to help the county thrive in the future.”

A final decision on the council’s capital and revenue budget for 2017-18 will be made by the full council on February 16.

The council is also piloting a scheme which uses a detailed network of weather sensors to help highways teams pinpoint more precisely when and where roads need salting to tackle icy conditions.

Cllr Humby said: “Deciding when to send out the salting lorries is crucial to make sure the roads are treated at the right times while not wasting any salt.

"At the moment, we use a number of roadside sensors and localised weather forecasts to make these decisions.

“This new trial uses low-cost devices that use infrared to read road surface temperature and then send the data back using WiFi and the street lighting network. This means that winter teams can make even better informed decisions.”

The pilot is being run by Amey, the council’s highways maintenance contractor; Mayflower Smart Control, which controls streets lights in the county; and Wintersense from the University of Birmingham, which senses road surface temperatures.

Amey has overseen installation of trial sensors on a priority one gritting route, and of five weather stations attached to lampposts controlled by Mayflower.

Amey technology director Rick Robinson said: “This is an exciting innovation project which will enable Hampshire County Council to make much better use of their resources.

“We’ve been gritting roads in the UK using the same approach for many years but this new approach could lead to a radical overhaul of how we approach the problem of when to grit a road.”

Mayflower managing director Patrick Mitchell said: “The Hampshire ‘Smart Winter’ project is a great illustration of innovation and collaboration.”

Prof Lee Chapman from the University of Birmingham said: “The potential of this for the winter road maintenance sector is transformative and will seriously challenge the traditional methods of measuring, forecasting and decision-making that have broadly remained untouched for decades.”