One sad fact regarding roadworks and accident clear-up on motorways and busy A roads in the UK is that people are in danger, when laying out and removing cones and signage. The government is to trial a new technology which may save lives and prevent small accidents further along the traffic queue as drivers suddenly realise there is a lane closure ahead. This can only be good news for insurers who underwrite the workplace risks associated with crash site crews and recovery vehicles.
Here’s the word;
An automatic taper which can close off lanes in minutes and saves road workers having to put out cones in the face of oncoming traffic is to be trialled on the National Highways network.
The innovation, SwiftGate, can be fully deployed in around five minutes compared to the 25 minutes it takes road workers to put out the taper of cones directing often fast-moving traffic away from a live lane. SwiftGate is being installed at the A3 Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey which requires regular closures for essential maintenance work. To enable maintenance to be carried out safely, workers cone off the entrances on the north and southbound carriageways.
During 2019 there were 14 vehicle incursions into these roadworks putting the lives of workers at risk. Now National Highways has teamed up with Kier and Highway Care to trial the automated taper gates which will be installed on the north and southbound carriageways of the tunnel. The gates clearly and safely filter traffic out of the traffic lane. Cones can then be put out beyond the taper to clearly mark out the closed-off lane. As well as avoiding the need for workers to manually set out tapers, the arms are a strong visual deterrent which will help avoid incursions, particularly at night-time.
Kier Highways Senior Project Manager Mark Sheppard said:
“The SwiftGate project will give us a great opportunity to trial something that is completely new to the National Highways network, that will modernise the standard approach to road worker protection. Traffic management installation can be a high-risk activity, so the opportunity to introduce an automatic solution that has the potential to remove the need to put our workforce in the ‘firing-line’, is a worthy project.”
SwiftGate follows the successful trials of an automated cone laying machine by National Highways, Highway Care and Kier. The Falcon ACLM vehicle puts out and retrieves cones, avoiding the need for a two-man team to lift and drop cones from the back of a moving vehicle. A second automated cone laying machine being developed by King Highway Products through the National Highways’ innovation fund is due to undergo further off-road testing shortly.
National Highways has a ring-fenced pot, the Innovation and Modernisation Fund, which is helping to maximise the opportunities offered by technologies such as automated vehicles.