Road worker safety remains a key concern, even while car use in the UK remains around 10% below pre-pandemic levels. With busy traffic conditions, low visibility and driver negligence to contend with, workers face almost constant danger of serious injury or worse while working to maintain or improve our roads.
Road worker protection measures like hi-viz vests, cones and signs are effective to a degree, while road closures, diversions and temporary traffic lights all help control the flow of traffic. But accidents still happen, and more is now being done to reduce the risk they encounter on a daily basis.
Swift gates trialled on the National Highways Network
Earlier this year, the government announced a trial of technology known as SwiftGate that automatically closes off lanes, saving road workers manually putting out cones in front of oncoming traffic.
The process should take around five minutes, which is a significant improvement on the average time it typically takes road workers to redirect traffic away from a live lane. The arms of these gates clearly mark out where drivers shouldn’t go, and so should help prevent incursions at all times of day.
Avoiding manually closing and opening sections of road especially improves worker safety in areas that lack an embankment or safe place, like bridges and tunnels. The innovation should also improve driver journey times as lanes can be managed more efficiently.
Alongside other trials such as automated cone laying machines, the project is a key step in an overarching push to modernise our major road network – of which worker safety is a key facet.
Supporting the Digital Roads 2025 vision
SwiftGate is part of the National Highways’ Digital Roads 2025 vision, which aims to revolutionise how our roads are designed, built, operated and used through data and technology. Its strategy is heavily aligned with the growth of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles, which will only become more prevalent on our roads as we work towards achieving net zero carbon emissions.
The Digital Roads 2025 vision strives to enable safer and faster journeys for all. Its three core focuses are:
- Digital design and construction: Using data and digital tools to improve road scheme design and planning, strengthened by modularised and automated approaches to construction.
- Digital operations:Harnessing data and technology to better manage roads and empower workers with accurate, up to date information.
- Digital for customers:Providing accurate and consistent information to road users through digital channels, helping them plan and take better journeys.
These plans are the foundations for a longer-term view of how we organise and take travel in the UK. With the trial of SwiftGate already underway, road workers will be relieved to see their workplace safety is being prioritised.
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