Brighton is a seaside resort in the county of East Sussex. It is a constituent part of the city of Brighton and Hove, created from the formerly separate towns of Brighton and Hove. It is located on the south coast, approximately 47 miles south of London.
Created a few years ago, the council’s Strategy for Well-Managed Highway Infrastructure sets out its plan for highway maintenance delivery and associated work. Like all local authorities, Brighton’s document was in response to the requirements of the UK Code of Practice. The document also sets out how Brighton & Hove City Council manages its risk-based approach to the highway network, with a principal focus on roads and pavements as, of course, the most heavily-used and highest-value assets. When the council completed the document, the medium-term strategy was to make effective use of available capital budgets to hold back decline in the condition of the major road network whilst investing in preventative treatments to secure longer term benefits for the unclassified roads.
Having good data is key to successfully following the risk-based approach and Brighton & Hove has been actively re-assessing the data it has and the data it needs to deliver a more effective and efficient network.
Historically, Brighton had used SCANNER but wanted to try something different after the outputs weren’t delivering what the council needed to achieve better results with its asset management as the council’s Highways & Assets Systems Manager, Robert Hall explains: “It got to the point where we were having trust issues with SCANNER. We were looking at various different aspects of it that just didn’t make sense. Sometimes SCANNER was presenting us situations that were different from the reality on the network when we checked,” he says.
Following that, Brighton looked into video surveying as a way of delivering more accurate insight into the state of its network so it could start to plan more effectively.
Brighton decided to use Gaist to help them achieve this. “We were a lot more comfortable with the idea of video surveys and Gaist’s AssetStream had a format we really thought we could get on with,” says Mr Hall. “It was a chance for us to study the network in great detail without having to go out look at it all the time,” he adds.
The first year’s survey by Gaist took in the main A roads in the city and that provided a cost-effective solution to obtaining more detail on the state on the network. “From there we were able to tweak the model slightly moving forward and give more weighting to this approach that we found uncovered a lot of interesting things about the network that we never had before,” says Mr Hall.
A notable insight early on in the process was how Brighton’s roads were categorised in Gaist’s ‘banding’ process. “This was useful to see exactly what of the state of the network was. There was a lot of roads in bands 1,3 and 4 but not much in band 2 but this is where the Gaist system is flexible enough to enable us to tweak the model and get a more balanced banding system,” adds Mr Hall.
The features of AssetStream and the more detailed, accurate picture of the network made it easier for Brighton to prioritise its resurfacing work. “The accuracy of the date means that we can provide a shortlist of roads that need attention and be confident they are exactly the ones we need to be working on first,” says Mr Hall. “The Gaist video surveying is proving to be much closer to reality that SCANNER ever was,” he adds.
Mr Hall says the work completed with Gaist has proved useful when explaining to council Members and the public not only what work has done, but what has actually been improved on. “We can now accurately demonstrate the deterioration of the network and that has helped us build a detailed evidence base for not only more funding but to have the ability to use AssetStream to plot our resurfacing work against the survey data to show how we are improving the network.
“We used this to present a case for more budget and say that if we received an extra £500,000, for example, this is what we could do with it,” says Mr Hall.
The next step is to use the survey data to enable the council to plan for multiple years of maintenance in one go. “We would ideally like a three-year plan if possible then we have more flexibility over a longer term plan to allow for any changes that we think need addressing more urgently and the more historical data we have, the more we can achieve. This can help us argue for a fixed budget over a period of time instead of working year-on-year,” he adds. “We have also tried to focus on roads that haven’t complete failed yet and get in and do the work before the real problems start, having four years of historical data definitely helps with that.”
As is often the case for any local authorities, the biggest problems aren’t always on the carriageways, it is the footways. Brighton is about to undertake a footway survey with Gaist also. “The Gaist footway survey will hopefully help us plan more effectively. Rather than going out and fixing a slab or two here and there, it will enable us to plan larger areas of work geographically in one go,” he concludes.