The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) have approved funding for the next phase of the Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads.
Live Labs 2: Decarbonising local roads in the UK is a three-year, UK-wide £30 million programme funded by the Department for Transport that aims to decarbonise the local highway network and highway infrastructure.
£4.5m of this funding has been awarded to North Lanarkshire Council and their strategic delivery partner, Amey to create the Centre of Excellence (CofE) model. The new Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads will break down siloed working practices, review, and trial leading innovation, and bring the industry together to tackle one of the largest challenges facing the UK roads sector on the path to carbon net zero.
Following the review of the business case by the Live Labs 2 Commissioning Board in April, highlighting the strategic, economic, commercial, financial, carbon and management case for the programme, the project team were then tasked with final assessments. All criteria were successfully met to secure funding for the CofE programme.
Amey and North Lanarkshire Council will now work together with their Live Labs 2 project partners, Transport for the West Midlands and Colas to achieve the objectives for the CofE programme. Drawing on a vast network of national and international partners, the programme will identify leading road materials innovations, provide a centralised hub for live trialling and evaluation, develop a knowledge bank and virtual collaboration environment, and enable a process to share and disseminate learnings at pace.
Giles Perkins, Live Labs 2 Programme Director said: “With the mobilisation of Live Labs 2 underway, we are kickstarting an evidence based debate around how the local highways sector needs to step up and reduce the carbon impacts of its construction, maintenance and operational activities. With billions being invested annually in local highways, activity across our seven Live Labs will demonstrate new solutions and techniques while measuring the carbon benefits and sharing information across industry.”
Highways Sector Director at Amey, Andy Denman said: “We’re working alongside North Lanarkshire Council to deliver a creative, robust, and outcome-based programme to help accelerate the UK’s journey to net zero.
“The industry as a whole has a plethora of low carbon solutions. The challenge for local authorities is deciphering the potential impact, quality of the material and evaluating whole life carbon to filter out the high quantity of the proposed solutions.
“Working with leading industry partners, such as Transport Scotland, The Future Highways Research Group, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre, will be critical in creating a robust selection and evaluation framework, which will enable us to fully evaluate the whole life carbon, technical and economic impact of the innovations trialled. This will help accelerate the adoption of material innovations across the sector, giving local authorities the confidence to adopt sustained decarbonisation solutions that the industry desperately needs, whilst also improving efficiencies and costs.”
Councillor Kenneth Stevenson, Convener of the Communities Committee at North Lanarkshire Council, said: “The council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and we have already surpassed our 2022 target by reducing our carbon footprint significantly. We are seeing the impact of climate change with more severe weather and we all must do more to reduce the harmful emissions we produce.
“As a council, we are well placed to drive and influence a change in behaviour. The transport sector accounts for a large portion of the emissions and, here in North Lanarkshire, we want to be at the forefront of innovation and developing solutions to this crisis. I believe we have assembled an excellent network here and across Scotland which will enable the radical shifts required. This is a fantastic opportunity to be a driver for change and make North Lanarkshire a Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads, supporting the whole industry.”
Amey has also supported South Gloucestershire Council and West Sussex County Council to secure another Live Labs 2 project to develop a ‘green carbon laboratory’. This project will examine the role that highways ‘green’ assets can play in providing a source of materials and fuels to decarbonise highway operations, for example, using biomass from green waste to create alternative fuels and asphalt additives.
ADEPT represents local authority county, unitary and metropolitan directors across England. Live Labs 2 includes seven projects, grouped by four interconnected themes, led by local authorities working alongside commercial and academic partners. Each project is testing new solutions to decarbonise construction, maintenance and decommissioning of the local highway network. The programme is overseen by an independent Commissioning Board, which includes DfT and other experts from across the public and private sectors.
This programme follows Live Labs 1, a £22.9 million innovation programme, also funded by the DfT, that focused on adoption of digital technology across the local roads sector in England. The Live Labs initiatives are part of ADEPT’s SMART Places programme to support the use of innovation and technology in place-based services.