Like most highway authorities, Monmouthshire’s maintenance works centres around a combination of reactive, routine, programmed, regulatory, winter service and resilience and emergency works.
According to the council’s Highway Management Plan, a network hierarchy based on asset function is the foundation of its risk-based maintenance strategy. Monmouthshire also recognises that the establishment of an effective regime of inspection, survey and recording is an important component of highway infrastructure maintenance. The types and frequency of inspection, items to be recorded and nature of response, are defined in line with the relative risks associated with potential circumstances of location.
The inspection, survey and recording regime the council implements, provides the basic information for addressing the core objectives of highway maintenance namely: network safety; network serviceability; and network sustainability. Vitally, it is recognised at Monmouthshire that the management of data information plays a vital role in the management of highway infrastructure.
This information can come from a wide range of sources, and it is essential that systems are put in place to not only manage that information but also to enable the information to be effectively used to inform management decisions. Monmouthshire makes extensive use of the information available to it, keeping detailed records of construction and maintenance treatments, safety inspection and direct reports from customers, but it is clear that opportunities exist to formalise and improve on the processes currently being used, says the council. It therefore intends to review its management and use of that information, linking with corporate initiatives in order to improve its practices in that area, says the council.
With this in mind, as well as other factors, the council was looking to change its approach to road condition monitoring to provide it with more evidence to build a more robust case to help plan works more effectively and prioritise funding.
After engaging with the team at Gaist after an industry seminar, Monmouthshire decided a survey that would provide them with more accurate and detailed data to help inform better decisions could now be achieved using the Gaist system. Gaist conducted a carriageway survey, that also came at an interesting time for the council as it wanted to also understand in detail the impact storm Dennis had on the network condition.
“The data that came back from the survey was unlike anything we have ever had before in terms of detail and accuracy. Very quickly this enabled us to start to prioritise our works more effectively which is crucial for us as we don’t have a big budget for maintenance and the damage caused by the storm in some areas was significant,” says Mr Hywel. “What was really impressive was when we compared the survey data with what we were seeing walking the network they matched very closely which gave us the confidence that we could make better decisions from having this kind of data. The quality of images produce through the HighwayView system was very impressive as well,” he adds.
The data and more specifically the criteria in the Gaist system that rated the roads in terms of their condition, meant that Monmouthshire was able to plan carriageway resurfacing and other works for the years ahead using this more proactive approach. With the council now having a ‘hierarchy’ or ‘scoring system’ for its roads, works could also be ordered and delivered more efficiently, ensuring investment was being made in exactly the right way, at the right time, according to Mr Hywel.
Now, by tracking the deterioration and having the more accurate data, Monmouthshire is even able to target specific sections of roads for treatments rather than carry out resurfacing on a whole road. “The ability to target sections of the road rather than all of it for works has led to us driving up our efficiencies ad well as productivity,” he adds. “This has in-turn also meant we have been able to think more about early interventions and that will continue when we have even more data to compare.”
The highways team at the council has also used the Gaist system effectively to provide evidence and reasoning to Members and other officers to back up why work has been prioritised in certain areas. “This has given everyone in this process confidence that this is the right approach and the benefits and outcomes that have been achieved as a result,” says Mr Hywel. “Being able to target some areas of the network a year ahead of what we originally planned has also been an important factor in driving up productivity.”
The plan now is for Monmouthshire to continuing to work with Gaist and the next complete survey is due to take place next year.
“Eventually we will be in the position where having this comparable data over time will help us build up the evidence base we need to apply for funding in the future. If we know in more detail the condition of our network we can not only make the funding we do get go further but will save us millions of pounds going forward, help reduce the amount of claims and make us much more efficient in terms of delivery,” adds Mr Hywel.
“The ultimate for me would be the click on a road in the system and for an estimated cost of repairing or maintaining that section of road would pop up to help inform our decision making and there is no reason to suggest why we wouldn’t have the scenario at our fingertips in the future.”