The DfT’s increasing rigour makes highways lifecycle planning a necessity

  • 1st November 2021 at 10:36AM
  • Written by Emily See, senior consultant, Infrastructure Asset Management, Yotta
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Many authorities have been treading water through self-assessment for far too long. However, with the Department for Transport (DfT) expected to take a more rigorous approach to highways lifecycle planning before apportioning its Highways Maintenance Incentive Fund in the future, it is time for local authorities to sharpen their thinking. 

 

Lifecycle planning 101

The main objective of lifecycle planning is to identify long term cost-effective investment strategies for the authority’s various assets. If done correctly, it provides an accurate prediction of the return on investment an authority will get depending on different maintenance scenarios over the lifecycle of an asset. It seems so easy on paper. However, the reality is often very different for authorities.

Budgetary constraints, political objectives, and pressure to fill potholes have all made a more strategic view of carriageway and footway maintenance difficult; undermining efforts to build longer-term strategies. Authorities also find it challenging to align asset management principles across all departments. This then makes it difficult to collate data from various internal and external sources that have a direct bearing on highways maintenance, including routine condition reports and ad-hoc inspections.

 

Ensuring accuracy

Data drives predictive modelling. Quite simply, the more data, the more reliable the output. However, the unreliability of the data availability to local authorities in the past has led to a lack of trust. Not only is the data siloed and often incomplete, but much of it is highly subjective and open to human error. Therefore, accuracy is lost. Luckily, authorities can overcome these problems by using the latest breed of scenario-building solutions.

Yotta’s Horizons is the next step forward in asset management and visualisation. It is already being used to manage more than 100,000km of highway assets across the UK from Unitary Authorities, London Boroughs, Metropolitan Boroughs, Counties and Trunk Road Agencies. Horizons enables authorities to realise significant savings as well as helping them justify their slice of the Highways Maintenance Incentive Fund.

Such solutions give authorities the ability to pull in data from across the organisation and use predictive capabilities to present a range of options over three-to-five years, matching outcomes to levels of investment for each carriageway or footway. This gives authorities a set of defined outcomes unique to its own assets and circumstances. Horizons powers better decision-making and reduces the costs and inefficiencies that inevitably follow short-term, worst-first approaches. Looking further ahead, having lifecycle planning capabilities also increases the likelihood that authorities will meet the evolving requirements from the DfT, which are likely to be more demanding moving forward.

 

Data to decisions

Very few authorities today are confidently undertaking effective lifecycle planning. However, with the DfT looking to be far stricter with its Incentive Fund and audit local authorities more thoroughly, the time for talk is over. The time for action is now. Lifecycle planning isn’t easy. You need leadership and commitment to drive it forward. But with the help of accurate data, you foster engagement. It is no coincidence that Yotta’s statement is ‘Data to Decisions’. Data is critical to making decisions. Being able to manage your data effectively will enable you to make robust, evidence-based decision making.

 

You can find out more about how we can help identify gaps in your data and assist with your lifecycle planning by exploring our capabilities here. We are also a Gold Sponsor of Highways UK and will be exhibiting at stand H60, where you can come and see Horizons in action. You can get free tickets to the Highways UK on the 3rd and 4th of November here.