Top 8 Products from Highways UK 2017
Updated: Jul 4, 2018
Last week I attended the Highways UK exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham to see the latest developments in the highways industry. I certainly wasn't disappointed. Every time I attend one of these events I come away amazed at how people are solving problems in the highways industry in the most clever and novel ways.
Here are my favourite highlights from the event, and why they stood out to me.
Virtual Reality Training from Turner Kenworthy
This was the stand out exhibit for me, by far. The gentlemen at the stand kindly offered to let me trial their virtual reality session, which simulated going down into a sewer and the dangers that would be encountered there.
I have to admit, nothing prepared me for the sensation of being lowered down into the sewer. Even though I knew I wasn't moving, I couldn't help but hunch my shoulders in so I didn't scrape the sides of the access chamber. The detail within the sewer was so lifelike that I expected to see rats. Fortunately, I escaped before the rising tide and heat overcame me.
If you have any kind of dangerous situation that your employees face daily on site, I can't think of a better way to train them safely than by using this system. This was an excellent example of technology being used to make the construction industry safer for all.
Concrete Canvas by Concrete Canvas
This is a concrete-impregnated material that is flexible when laid, but hardens when in contact with water (hydrated) to form a continuous concrete lining. As they say on their website, it's concrete on a roll.
My immediate thought was that this was perfect for ditch lining. If you have ever had to maintain a ditch within the highway verge, then you will know what a pain it is to take up, relay, and maintain a ditch lined with concrete slabs. However, any slope protection works would benefit from a product like this as well.
With the thousands of kilometres of ditch on the highways network, I would have thought Concrete Canvas could be kept busy every day of the year.
OS MasterMap Highways Network by GeoPlace
Anyone involved with CAD drawings is already likely familiar with the MasterMap OS tiles. However, the OS MasterMap Highways Network is another level entirely.
This platform gives you all the information about the road network - both local and trunk roads - in one product. By "all information", I mean ownership data, maintenance responsibilities, rights and restrictions, as well as road names and numbers, in one product.
If you design diversion routes and traffic management, or apply for Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (TTROs) on a regular basis, you will know how much time is spent trying to track down information like this. My design bias might be showing here, but I think this would be an invaluable tool to the industry.
City Elements by Aldridge Traffic Systems
Aldridge Traffic Systems had plenty of interesting traffic technology on display, such as solar-powered SOS phones and countdown LED traffic lights. What caught my eye, however, was the City Elements range in their brochure.
City Elements are modern looking poles that combine LED lighting with other options such as CCTV cameras, WiFi hotspots, speakers, and detection and security systems. I believe there are also projectors available that can project signs and information onto surfaces.
With the push to reduce street furniture, I could see how products like these could be used to combine essential services into one streamlined package.
GSI Coiled Duct by GSI Corporation
This coiled duct is a continuous length of ducting that comes on a roll. It offers around five times the strength of normal ducts, meaning that it's far more resistant to damage by spades and diggers. Less cable strikes is a good thing for everyone.
Being on a roll, it's much easier for the duct to be installed, and there are also options to include internal, colour-coded ducts for the various services inside.
The other useful feature with this product is that it's flexible, so it can be laid at varying heights and directions. GSI say that this reduces the amount of chambers needed, though I did think that this would depend on what the services in the duct are.
Overall, anything that reduces the chances of a cable strike and makes duct installation easier and safer for site staff is a winner in my books.
Super Gully by Stanton Bonna
This particular product caught my eye as adequate drainage at low
spots in the carriageway can be difficult to achieve. The Super Gully combines two gullies with kerb offlets and a massive 1.3m deep chamber for storing the water.
This high capacity means it can rapidly drain the carriageway during extreme rainfall, and cope with additional water if the rest of the system is backing up. In addition to it's high capacity, it comes as a precast unit that is easy to install on site.
If you've done your drainage calculations and realise you actually need five gullies all in the same location just to cope with the rainfall in one low spot – I'm exaggerating of course, but not by much – the Super Gully might be the answer.
Redi-Rock™ by CPM Group
These retaining walls are essentially giant concrete Lego bricks. I have seen products like this in the past, but these are probably the nicest looking blocks I've seen due to the different finishes available.
CPM Group had some of the blocks at the event, and the pictures do not give you any sense of the size of these blocks – they are huge. That much concrete is bound to retain a vast amount of soil (supported by the appropriate structural calculations, obviously.)
Tertu Timberrail by Highway Care
While I didn't see the actual product at the event, I found this unique barrier in the product information that Highway Care gave me. This is a vehicle restraint system (or safety barrier to any non-engineers reading this) that has a timber facing attached to it.
There is no getting away from the fact that safety barriers are essential but ugly. You won't see this on the M1, but for certain situations I can see how this would be a much less intrusive addition to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, for example.
Also, as an aside, both CPM Group and Highway Care gave me a great USB with their literature on. Not only did they stand out from all the pens I received, but by the time I got to their stands I was loaded like a pack mule and sincerely appreciative at not being given more paper to carry around.
I'm certain there were plenty of other great products and services at the event, and by no means did I visit every stand available. But for the people I did speak to, these were the stand out products that seemed particularly innovative and that others would want to know about. I look forward to seeing what Highways UK 2018 brings.
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