The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council is one of five metropolitan district councils in West Yorkshire and one of 36 in England. The city of Bradford is situated in the foothills of the Pennines, 8.6 miles west of Leeds, and 16 miles north-west of Wakefield. The city has a population of 529,870, which makes it the seventh-largest city in the UK and the third-largest city in Yorkshire and the Humber after Leeds and Sheffield.
Bradford’s road network is diverse with 184.19km of A roads, 77.71km of B roads, 119.48km of C roads and 1,464.06km of U roads. There is also 3,083.11km of footways. The council set out its latest Highway Infrastructure Asset Management Strategy in 2018. The strategy allows planning over both the short and long term, whilst delivering a minimum whole life cost approach to its highway assets.
Bradford’s Strategy identifies the highway infrastructure network as its most valuable asset. The Gross Replacement Cost, calculated in accordance with the requirements for Whole of Government Accounts, is estimated to be in excess of £3 billion. Its strategy is based around four core areas; inventory and data management, levels of services, lifecycle planning and risk management. Its Highways Infrastructure Asset Management Policy details a number of aspirations for the highway network, including the fact that the council will ensure its highway infrastructure network is in the best condition for the available investment, it will adopt a lifecycle planning approach to inform the level of funding required to maintain an asset over its lifespan, ensure that cost effective planned maintenance treatment interventions are undertaken at the appropriate time in order to maximise the life of the asset, establish the desired levels of service for its highway assets and monitor performance against these targets and balance competing needs across the highway infrastructure network selecting options that best meet desired outcomes.
Bradford Council had been using SCANNER for some time but recognised the need for more detailed and analytical reporting to help show elected members, senior officers and the public what had been achieved on the network and also to create a more solid evidence base to help bid for future funding in line with the council’s Highways Infrastructure Asset Management Strategy and Policy. “We have always had a robust data collection methodology but we wanted to take it to another level,” says Andy Fisher, Principal Engineer – Highway Maintenance (North) at Bradford Council, “which is why we were searching for something more user-friendly and visual from which we could harvest more detailed accurate data, including gully information, which had previously been limited, but also highlight and articulate to others what we had achieved and what we wanted to achieve moving forward,” he adds.
The highway maintenance team at Braford considered using another provider but that was cost prohibitive for the Council with the company looking to charge an upfront cost plus a licence fee.
In the end, they opted to work with Gaist and use its HighwayView and AssetStream products. “Gaist HighwayView is a web-based product and their method of analysis and video-capture was very appealing to us at that time. The level of detail provided by this system is very impressive and better than anything else I have seen,” says Mr Fisher.
After consultation with the Gaist team, Mr Fisher managed to use the Blackpool Council highways framework to help procure the work. “ I worked with the team at Gaist to write a detail specification of what we wanted from them and agreed on a three year survey that would include video and data capture of all the road network including footways and carriageways , A, B, C and unclassified roads as well as the gullies.
As well as using the HighwayView and AssetStream products, Bradford also chose the Gaist Carriageway and Gaist Footway condition survey and the Gaist Assets system for its detailed gully surveying.
“The results from the first year of surveys were very impressive and they delivered exactly what we were looking for. In AssetStream, everything was set out at a level of detail we never had previously, including the gullies. All the roads and footways are condition-graded and for me personally, one of the biggest benefits is the ease of assessing the condition of each roads. In turn, this makes it much easier to explain to some of our stakeholders,” says Mr Fisher. “Quite often, we receive comments from elected members and residents relating to roads in their wards and their reasons why we should prioritise these, but now we have a much more scientific, evidence based approach we can explain, using detailed visual data, why we are prioritising other roads in their wards,” he adds. “It is also refreshing to know that the things these surveys are picking up are in fact generally the same as what our highway maintenance staff are finding when they are inspecting the network every day.”
After two years of surveying, it was found that Bradford’s road network overall is in a reasonably good condition but, like any highway network, there were some areas to work on. Bradford enlisted the help of the Consultancy Services division of Gaist to help with a lifecycle modelling plan for the network. This looked at various aspects including comparing the price of different types of asphalt and other materials per square metre and considering what the Council’s overall aims should be for the network for the next few years. “The lifecycle modelling was extremely valuable and showed that, as part of our future plans, we should be considering increasing the current annual 20% preventative treatment to our Grade 3 (mid-life) roads by carrying out further surface dressing, as well as considering preservation treatments to our Grade 2 (signs of wear) roads along with striking a balance between reactive and proactive works in general,” says Mr Fisher.
“Steve Birdsall, David Price and the team at Gaist have been extremely supportive over the last few years and we have seen significant benefits since using their various systems. The detailed and visual analysis and data we now have has created a solid body of evidence to help us with future funding bids as well as being able to provide explanations in a more scientific way to our various stakeholders. We hope to continue with Gaist and look forward to working with them to build up more data and indeed to test them with some of the challenges facing us over the next few years”
Andy Fisher, Principal Engineer – Highway Maintenance (North) at City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council.