HORIZONS TAKES HIGHWAYS ASSET MANAGEMENT TO A NEW LEVEL
Warrington Borough Council’s (WBC) highway infrastructure assets consist of approximately 1,137 km of roads and have a total value of approximately £744 million. The council is currently investing more in preventative maintenance in order to maintain the highway network in a condition to enable the safe passage of the travelling public.
To achieve this, WBC has implemented Yotta’s Horizons visualised asset management platform. The council used Horizons to prove the business case for it to use prudential borrowing to invest in infrastructure on a partial ‘invest to save’ basis.
“Yotta’s Horizons software has allowed us to take highways asset management to a new level over the past few years. We used it to provide impact analysis, identify optimum planned maintenance budgets; produce evidence-based reporting and develop forward programmes for approval. This process played a key part in preparing a bid for extra government funding and proving the business case for the council to use prudential borrowing to maintain our most valuable asset, our road network.”
Jim Turton, Engineering and Flood Risk Manager, Warrington BC
WBC has built a long-standing relationship with Yotta founded on trust. Yotta was initially engaged to run a series of surveys for WBC to gather key data on the condition of roads and footways across the borough as well as helping to document the council’s record of reactive maintenance. These included SCANNER (Surface Condition Assessment of the National Network of Roads), CVI (Coarse Visual Inspection) and FNS (Footway Network Survey) inspections.
The objective (successfully achieved) was to generate robust data that could subsequently be relied on as the basis of maintenance decisions together with strategic asset management planning going forward. Once all this rich data about the status of the WBC highways network had been generated, however, the next step was to interpret it and produce plans for maintenance works programmes going forward.
One of the first projects Horizons was deployed on was the council’s bid for extra government funding. From WBC’s perspective, the key was being able to use the software to clearly demonstrate how much they would be able to save by using the fund to enhance their future management of the highways network.
By investing in preventative maintenance and reducing spend on reactive works such as pothole repairs, WBC aims to cut the cost to the local economy of road traffic collisions, and therefore show significant savings. Yotta worked closely with WBC to produce an initial appraisal of the Future Highway Funding Strategies report. The report, created using Horizons software with support from Yotta’s consultants, provided crucial evidence to support the funding bid. It included impact analysis for different investment strategies and the identification of optimum planned maintenance budgets to prevent further deterioration of the network.
“This work helped to produce a clear, understandable and robust evidence based report and strategy to enable the asset management team to bid for extra government funding and to prove a business case for the council to use prudential borrowing to invest in infrastructure on a partial ‘invest to save’ basis,” says Jim Turton. “With support from Yotta, we could demonstrate the potential savings we can achieve as well as the positive impact this funding would have for residents, businesses and visitors to Warrington. Likewise, we could highlight the potential negative impact for citizens, businesses and the council that would arise without the additional funding.”
The data generated from Horizons is now also being widely used – in conjunction with the WBC team’s own engineering expertise – to inform long-term planning and prioritisation of works specific programmes and support the need for further funding as and when required.
That’s where the rich visualisation functionality of the solution really comes into its own. As Turton explains: “Horizons’ high-quality visualisation capabilities make it a great presentation tool. We can use it to engage closely with all our stakeholders and clearly show how different options for maintenance will impact on the future condition of the whole network.”
WBC has also benefited from being able to drill down into the data quickly and easily to look at everything in detail – from one individual road to the entire highways network – and to answer any queries arising from council members about strategic asset management plans, or specific works programmes, while also addressing complaints from the public.
WBC can use Horizons to demonstrate robust asset management process and the development of forward programmes which helps council members and residents to understand the logic and complexity of scheme selection.
This ability to manage and then analyse data quickly and efficiently is the basis for any forward looking strategic asset management approach, of course. This, in the view of Turton, also positions WBC well by providing a key requirement in respect of current banding under the Government’s current Incentive Fund for highway maintenance.
“It was critical for me to be able to demonstrate to key decision-makers at the council the importance of formal, clear asset management processes to put us in a strong position to keep demonstrating that we are operating those appropriate systems and delivering the kind of strategic approach that enables us to move up the bands and qualify for higher levels of funding moving forward. I see Yotta’s Horizons solution as key element to that process.”
WBC is also making increasing use of Horizons to pull out the key information it needs to provide a sound legal defence against insurance claims and demonstrate that the organisation is delivering a sound asset management approach.
With the initial work completed, firm foundations have been put in place for the evolution of the Horizons approach over time. WBC now has a calibrated treatment set in place that they are happy with. They can readily upload new data to inform the decision-making process as and when surveys are completed, enabling them to re-run analysis and develop new programmes of work when needed.
The system’s rich visualisation and presentation capabilities continue to help ensure stakeholder buy-in by clearly demonstrating exactly how assets are being managed and how the budget could be most effectively allocated.