Highways inspections form a vital part of efforts to keep our roads safe and our traffic moving.

But this core aspect of road management is also resource and time intense. In addition, the information captured through traditional surveys is not always complete, or robust enough to respond to legal claims.

Now, as local authorities seek to drive efficiency into their processes and respond to the many challenges that they face, this routine, yet critically important activity is under scrutiny.

A fresh approach

Leaders are assessing how a new approach and the use of technology could help to drive efficiency and effectiveness into inspections, freeing up resource and time and easing budgetary pressures in our increasingly turbulent times.

One such solution is SafetyView. Developed by the digital mapping group, Gaist, it enables rapid capture and unrivalled visual detail of inspection routes. It also provides the most comprehensive possible record of potholes and other damage to support councils with defending legal claims.

The solution, unveiled in July, is already having a significant impact on outcomes for asset owners across the country: John Ingle, Highways Condition & Safety Inspection Team Leader-Highways Assets and Strategy at Cumbria County Council, says: “SafetyView has enabled us to make our inspectors much more efficient so they can cover other aspects of their work including focusing on claims and defending them.”

SafetyView – a Step Change

SafetyView was not developed in isolation. Gaist worked closely with local councils and insurance companies to develop the product. It also drew on its 15 years’ experience of working with a wide range of local authorities to enable them to effectively manage their road networks through data-driven approaches and the intelligent application of new technologies.

So how does SafetyView work? Data is captured at traffic speed by specially equipped Gaist vehicles. The need for additional spend on traffic management is removed as is the need for two council inspectors to be deployed to conduct an inspection.

The solution also paves the way for significant reductions on carriageway and footway survey costs, because that data is collected as part of the SafetyView survey.

Fully auditable, clear imagery of the entire route is captured and can be reviewed and analysed from a desktop at anytime.

Sector view

Sector leaders are optimistic about the efficiencies solutions like SafetyView will embed within the inspections process.

Paul Boss, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) and former Highway Asset Manager at the Amey/Staffordshire County Council Infrastructure+ Strategic Highway Partnership says: “I am certain significant cost savings can be made by investing in SafetyView – more than 50 per cent on inspectors being used on the road and who can then be deployed either to analyse the data, undertake urgent reactive Inspections or be re-deployed to other areas of the authority or company.

“This will enable local authorities to save money while still fulfilling their section 41 duties.”

An added benefit for councils is that it can be delivered to individual organisations or deployed as a regional, shared service. This enables them to leverage the benefits of working collaboratively.

Holistic highways

Gaist’s Christina Liassides helped to develop the product. She believes the product offers a “truly holistic” risk-based approach to decisions on managing highways assets.

“SafetyView has a big advantage over traditional inspection methods in that you have complete roadscape imagery that enables the tracking of deterioration and of the development of defects,” she says.

“Areas that are deteriorating but not unsafe can be recorded and put on watch before they get to a point where they are unsafe.”

She says: “In the longer term, you can make decisions on whether to undertake preventative rather than reactive maintenance and can plan and prioritise for future schemes from your desktop, saving on lots of individual site visits.”

For more information on SafetyView and how it is unlocking better outcomes for local authorities around the country, please contact: christina.liassides@gaist.co.uk