The scheme has been hailed as a success, being the first carbon neutral road improvement scheme in the UK. Disruption to road users and the local community was kept to a minimum and technology was used to communicate with and improve safety for road users as they travelled through and around the works.
As part of Highways England’s Supply chain, Rennicks UK worked collaboratively with traffic management company HW Martin and security technology specialists VPS to provide an integrated technology solution that contributed to the success of the scheme, delivering outputs that improved road safety, air quality and traffic flows. Works on the scheme ran day and night so that the work was completed as quickly as possible, reducing overall disruption to road users and the local community. However, to achieve this, full lane closures and alternative diversion routes were required. There were concerns due to an incident in February 2013 where works in the same vicinity led to tailbacks on the M6 Northbound resulting in two fatalities and a number of serious injuries. To avoid tailbacks, a number of different diversion routes were put in place. HW Martin needed to find a solution that would inform drivers of the alternative route options, encourage drivers to leave the M6 and choose the best diversion route available, based on the traffic flow at that moment in time.
Thirteen Mobile Variable Message Signs (mVMS) from Rennicks were deployed along key routes to provide up to date communications to road users. By integrating the RVJTS with the mVMS units at key locations, two live journey time diversion routes options were able to be displayed on one mVMS unit. The strategic positioning of the mVMS units allowed drivers to use this information and make an informed choice of which diversion route to take, based on live, accurate journey times for each diversion route. The availability of this live journey time data, allowing drivers to make a choice of diversion route, meant that traffic flows ran more evenly through the scheme, avoiding congestions and tailbacks on to the M6. Also of concern through the diversion routes was a low bridge on the journey into Kendal. Additional technology provided by VPS was placed on the route. The VPS Over-Height Vehicle Detection System actively monitors traffic on routes where overhead obstructions pose a strike risk and provides strike warnings to drivers of vehicles that are too large. In this case, a pair of electronic goalposts mounted onto the VPS Smart Tower were used on the approach to the bridge. When an over height vehicle was detected, a warning message was automatically triggered and displayed on the Rennicks mVMS unit informing drivers of the low bridge ahead and to take an alternative, safer route.
By recycling materials and working up to 24-hours a day, Highways England were able to:
Using technology to improve traffic flows and avoid tailbacks, not only improved safety for road users, but also assisted with air quality through the scheme. Congestion ramps up emissions as vehicles are forced to repeatedly accelerate and brake, as well as potentially sitting idle in one location if stuck in tailbacks. Using the live journey time information to reroute journeys and keep traffic flowing helped to reduce a potential build up in emissions caused by congestion.