Highways, Thurrock Council

CASE STUDY – Highways, Thurrock Council

Earlier this year Vemco was commissioned to carry out a series of feasibility studies related to specific areas within the Highways Service as follows:

Asset management

Like many councils, Thurrock is working towards an ambitious agenda in very challenging times. Financially, 2014 – 2016 will form a period of significant service review and service cuts that will, no doubt, see the Council in a new relationship with communities and citizens.

The DfT is scrutinising how local authorities are investing in their highway infrastructure. They are keen to see that the value of the asset is being maintained effectively and efficiently. In future, councils are likely to be penalised financially if they do not show public money is being invested effectively. For Thurrock, Central government funding has dropped from £176m in 2010/11 to £120m in 2014/15; a reduction of £56m in 5 years. Furthermore, Thurrock is on the point of unprecedented growth and regeneration. With planned private sector investment (through, for example, London Gateway development and Port of Tilbury expansion) likely to increase commercial floor space in the Borough by 60% over the next 10 to 15 years, and a changing public sector landscape.

With the above context in mind, Vemco’s aim was to help the Council meet its statutory and operational requirements in the most efficient way possible by 2015/16. We determined the way in which a future Highways Asset Management life cycle would allow defects to be dealt with from the time a service request is made, through to works ordering and scheduling, interacting and sharing information with contractors, to invoicing and payment. This strategy is now being implemented. In addition, we set out and initiated the procurement strategy for a compliant system.

Street lighting

Vemco developed a street lighting strategy setting out costs and proposals for future-proofing Thurrock’s street lighting asset to avoid inflationary pressures on energy, power consumption and routine maintenance. Our work report illustrated how an investment could pay for itself within 7 years and give the following technical solution:

  • A solution that complies with the latest UK lighting standards, but at the same time fully exploits the potential for energy savings. (This includes removing street lights from non-priority areas to reduce the asset stock whilst considering local crime, traffic flows and environmental conditions)
  • The latest in street lighting technology that includes future-proof (LED retrofit) lantern units. Where appropriate, columns with good residual life will be sleeved with LED lanterns to extend their life.

White lining (road markings)

Consistent with many councils, over a number of years Thurrock has allocated a limited amount of money to deal with a number of maintenance issues. One such area is white lining, where a backlog of work had accumulated. As a result, Thurrock Highways’ response to road marking safety defects was adhoc and inconsistent. In the absence of a structured approach, road markings were only being refreshed following public and Member requests. This led to inconsistency and deterioration in condition across the Borough.

Thurrock Council maintains approximately 550km of roads, comprising of A, B, C and unclassified roads. The precise volume of road markings is unknown across the Borough. Nevertheless, with so much of the network below the recognised minimum standard, and increasing public expectations, the Council needed to prepare a policy that was affordable and would allow the service to be delivered consistently across the Borough.

In response, Vemco developed a strategy for a road marking incorporating a hierarchy (which we branded as the Thurrock Lining Priority). Using this hierarchy, roads were allocated to one of four priority levels for the purposes of refreshing road markings, thus achieving the objectives of remaining affordable and providing consistent service delivery.