Enews - Issue 4 - Autumn 2011

Clients’ View

Highway Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) - 'every cloud has a silver lining'.

Steve Kent, Director of Community and Environment, Cheshire West & Chester Council

Highway maintenance managers, in public and private sector alike, are no doubt still getting to grips with the implications of the world-wide financial crisis, our own Government's comprehensive spending review and the local impacts of potentially reduced annual budgets.  Set this against a backdrop of two dreadful winters, rashes of potholes and a highway network that is, at best, standing still in condition terms and it's no wonder that reaching for the valium, or a scotch, can seem like a reasonable strategy.

But hang on a minute, what's this about a DfT-inspired national efficiency programme that will bring together the whole highway maintenance sector, pooling ideas and initiatives, breaking down the old 'us and them' silos and delivering us all from a spiral of reducing budgets and worsening roads?

Well, of course, life isn't that simple, is it?  Roads in Cumbria are different to those in Cornwall.  The public and private sectors have different drivers and seek different outcomes.  And then there's politics - national and local. 

That said, times of great need usually bring great opportunities, and this is certainly a time of great need.  So why shouldn't a national efficiency programme, supported initially by the DfT, but intended to be owned and sustained in the long term by the highways sector, provide that opportunity to spread best practise, share knowledge and gain from all being able to access the best in advice and information about highway maintenance.  We are, after all, engineers - it's what we do and what we're good at.

From the first meetings of an embryonic programme board early this year, the project is starting to gather momentum, with specific packages of work being identified, task groups being established and a growing number of willing participants, from all sides of the sector, coming forward to find out what it's about, and getting actively involved. You can find out more by visiting the HMEP website - - and then get in touch with one of the work stream leads and see how you can contribute.

It's obviously too early to talk about success, but the potential for something like HMEP has been there for some time, in terms of both need and the sector's willingness to work better together and share knowledge and benefits for the greater good.  As a work stream lead and member of the programme board, I'm clearly biased when it comes to saying whether this will work.  I believe it can, that it will and, in many respects, it must.  But you don't have to take my word for it - get in touch and get on board.  We'd hate you to miss out on a good crisis!

New Approach for Scotland’s Trunk Roads is Good News for the Road Users

Dougie Millar, Materials and QA Adviser, Transport Scotland

A new surface course specification developed by Transport Scotland for the Scottish Trunk Road Network, should help deliver significant improvements in material durability, which ultimately will result in less disruption to road users generated by road construction and maintenance.

So how has this come about?

Following on from European developments in asphalt technology in the mid 1990s, a change in the type of road surfacing, known as thin surfacing, was introduced across the UK.  These proprietary surfacing systems came with a range of benefits including improved deformation resistance, speed of application, noise and spray reduction and changes to traffic management practices.

Initially welcomed by both the road industry and road users in Scotland and the UK, by 2006 incidents were being reported of surface deterioration after only short periods in service.  Safety concerns were also expressed due to a possible loss of skid resistance. In response to this, Transport Scotland commissioned a review of the performance of thin surfacings as laid on the Scottish Trunk Road Network by TRL.  The review encompassed site inspections to identify and quantify surfacing defects and a series of workshops to discuss the findings and to find possible remedies to improve the performance of the surfacing.

Out of the workshops the Transport Scotland Pavement Forum (TSPF) was established who implemented annual monitoring of the surfaces by the Scottish Inspection Panel (SIP) a Panel of expert Industry Pavement Engineers and supplier Technical representatives, to provide an estimate of service life based on performance.  This resulted in a major recommendation being made that efforts should be made to reduce the open nature of the materials by specifying denser binder rich mixes and smaller aggregate sizes.

A series of road trials on the M8 Trunk Road between Glasgow and Edinburgh followed using different sized aggregates based on German specifications and experience where the use of smaller aggregate sizes and higher binder content are used to enhance material durability. As a result of this work, Transport Scotland has been able to give final approval to a new surface course specification TS2010 for the Trunk Road Network in Scotland. It marks a step change in approach for specifying surfacing material and should provide key benefits in terms of material durability and value for money, something to be welcomed at a time of reduced funding.  And for road users, this means they should suffer less disruption to the network caused by construction and maintenance works.

Once the Type Approval Installation Trials (TAIT’s) are completed by the individual suppliers (there are eight TAIT’s ongoing at this time) and the performance characteristics for skidding resistance are confirmed, final approval for use on the Trunk Road network will be given.

It is expected that these approved SMA TS2010 materials will provide 16 years service or better, and if the skid resistance reduces over time to near the Investigatory Level (IL) it is envisaged that a surface treatment such as re-texturing may be used to regenerate the macro and micro texture hence giving a longer life and value for money.

The new Specification and Notes for Guidance can be downloaded from the Transport Scotland Website under the Transport Scotland Interim Amendment N° 35 (TSIA 35).

Why NHSS13 Certification?

Kevin How, Technical Manager, LRQA UK

National Highways Sector Schemes (NHSS) are bespoke integrated management schemes within an ISO 9001 framework. They have been developed in partnership with the highways industry to interpret this international quality management system (QMS) standard as it applies to a particular activity or industry within the United Kingdom.

They are designed to:

  • Provide an industry benchmark
  • Ensure that all processes are planned
  • Provide a basis for continuous improvement
  • Focus on quality as an objective
  • Reduce overall costs for the client and supplier
  • Provide and maintain a properly trained and competent workforce
  • Involve all sides of the industry in scheme ownership within a partnership framework
  • Ensure that Certification Bodies use auditors with technical knowledge and experience of the sector concerned
  • Promote confidence in quality management systems by provision of a robust, transparent system.

NHSS13 is wholly based on ISO 9001:2008 and provides interpretation of this QMS standard to the road surface treatments industry. NHSS13 should be included in the procurement process through reference in the Specification for Highway Works (SHW) but for Highways Agency contracts NHSS13 third part approval (certification) is a mandatory requirement of the SHW.

Many local government highways departments make NHSS13 a contractual requirement for surface treatments. Local councils should also be using contractors registered to the Scheme to ensure they get best value and a reputable service and organisations in this sector wishing to expand their business should seriously consider seeking NHSS13 approval with LRQA or another accredited certification body to gain new surfacing business.

The particular requirements for training and competence of employees are detailed in Appendix C of the scheme. These will be familiar to responsible organisations in this sector - not least from a health and safety viewpoint including temporary traffic management (e.g. NHSS12D). All of the relevant NHSS scheme documents can be downloaded from the UKAS website at:

NHSS13 approval for ISO 9001 (UKAS) approved contractors requires a “change to approval” assessment visit and LRQA have a number of approved organisations to NHSS13 who were able to ‘upgrade’ their existing ISO 9001 certification to include this scheme in a straightforward manner.

For SME’s without certification, LRQA (and other UKAS accredited certification bodies) can offer a cost-effective combined assessment approach. In practice addition of NHSS13 adds little or no additional assessment time compared to a standard ISO 9001 assessment. Whilst certification bodies clearly cannot offer consultancy, the RSTA can recommend suitable individuals and organisations that will assist in terms of devising and implementing a suitable QMS.

A sustainable approach to surface treatments in Dorset

David Blackburn, Waste & Recycling Manager (Highways), Dorset County Council

Surface dressing has traditionally been part of the package of measures to maintain Dorset’s highway network, investment in surface dressing is unsurprisingly set to increase though as like other authorities budget constraints force a rethink of strategies.

As well as more traditional surface treatments, Dorset has invested in velocity patching and infra red repair techniques and these practices have been instrumental in driving down routine maintenance costs when compared to a conventional approach.

Dorset has 4,000km of network with no motorways and is predominantly rural. Andrew Martin, Head of Dorset Highways Operations reasons that there is no one technique or product that will fit all. In Dorset we choose the repair method from a variety of options available which is considered most appropriate. Through efficient programming and prioritising repairs based on actual need we have also been able to keep pace with the increasing number of repairs, ensuring safety for road users and assisting in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.  

Our aim has been to break the reactive maintenance cycle and we have to some extent achieved that. We are now in a position to carry out pro-active repairs at some times which is very important when we consider that in Dorset we carried out over 25,000 defect repairs last year compared to 13,000 in 2006 /07. Whilst some of the increase relates to changes in reporting and categorising defects, the majority are due to the generally declining state of the network.

In Dorset we started using a single Nuphalt van in May 2009 with a second leased unit joining the fleet in October last year. This has enabled us to split the areas covered by the vans reducing travelling time and costs. Productivity is good with well over 2,200 seamless high quality repairs being completed on one unit alone last year. Typical costs stack up well at around £45 / m² compared to a current cost of £63 /m² for a conventional repair and there is a considerable carbon saving of around 3 tonnes CO2 equivalent per van per week.

In September 2009 we also first started using velocity patcher and after the success of a brief initial trial we quickly decided that we would enter into a longer term lease. We took delivery of our own machine in November last year which further helped to decrease costs. We complete up to 200 repairs of varying sizes per week and achieve typical weekly savings of over £30,000 by using this method in preference to conventional repairs. Carbon savings are also impressive at around 36 tonnes CO² equivalent per week.  

Using the Velocity patcher and Nuphalt systems has had a very positive impact on highway maintenance budgets in Dorset and the carbon savings are noteworthy. As well as these benefits, there has also been a significant reduction in the reliance on primary materials, an improvement for crews in terms of manual handling and less disruption to road users as some repairs are completed in a matter of minutes.

There are some constraints on using these techniques including consideration of compatible materials and weather conditions however by investing in research and the training, support and supervision of staff using the systems we are benefiting from very good results.

So it is not all bad news, in Dorset we have been able to adapt to the challenges facing us and manage change in a sensitive way ensuing that we enjoy the cooperation and commitment of those delivering these important services through a difficult period.


Stephen Gilmore, Sector Scheme 13 Team Leader, Roads Service Direct

The responsibility for the maintenance and development of the road infrastructure in Northern Ireland lies with Roads Service which is an Executive Agency within the Department for Regional Development. During the summer of 2011 in the region of 3 million m² of surface dressing was laid on N.Ireland’s roads. This work was completed by both internal and private contractors all of which carry out the work in accordance with National Highway Sector Scheme 13. Roads Service Direct (RSD), the internal contractor provider unit of Roads Service, completed approximately 50% of the total surface dressing programme in N.Ireland. 

In 2005, RSD first achieved certification in the International Quality Standard ISO 9001:2000 and accreditation in 5 National Highway Sector Schemes, including Sector Scheme 13.

As the Sector Scheme 13 Team Leader for RSD, I represent DRD Roads Service on the Sector Scheme Advisory Committee for Surface Treatments and advise Roads Service of any changes to the requirements of the scheme.

When Sector Scheme 13 was first introduced it initially involved quite a lot of work in developing a Quality Plan and Method Statement etc. However, once these were put in place it is now generally just a matter of following these from one year to the next. With the introduction of the Sector Scheme 13 RSD invested heavily in training its staff to meet the requirements of the Sector Scheme.  This has ensured that all staff involved in surface dressing are fully trained and competent in all aspects of their work and in turn that quality work and value for money are achieved.

In April 2011, RSD again achieved certification under the International Quality Standard ISO 9001:2008 and accreditation in National Highway Sector Scheme 13 demonstrating RSD’s continued commitment to providing quality assured services to the Roads Service client and the travelling public.

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