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Innovation Award

5 January 2010

Highways Agency engineers and contractors (including Costain) in Greater Manchester have won an award for innovation, after delivering improvements along the M61 at the same time as reducing inconvenience to drivers.

The use of the Dynamic Roadspace Utilisation Manager (DRUM) for the first time anywhere outside the South East shaved two weeks off the time needed to deliver the £4.1million scheme between Junctions 3 and 4 of the motorway near Bolton.

By utilising DRUM, engineers were able to calculate windows when contractors were able to extend work beyond traditional working times - enabling them to finish the work to install a new concrete safety barrier and other improvements more quickly.

The system works by using trailer-mounted sensors to acquire live, real-time data on traffic flow. By combining this fresh information with historical statistics, specially-designed software then calculates the optimum time for lane closures, improving the pace at which roadworks can be undertaken.

The work on the M61, which also included bridge improvements, began at the end of May and was finished two weeks ahead of schedule on Saturday, September 12, saving £250,000 in the process.

Around 80,000 drivers use this section of the M61 each day and Highways Agency Project Sponsor John Mather said, "No one likes roadworks but they are a necessity to keep our motorways operating safely.  By using DRUM we were able to ensure that the work was completed and roadworks lifted sooner than originally anticipated.

"Using DRUM on this scheme has saved us time and public money as well as reducing inconvenience to our customers using the motorway network."

The benefits of deploying DRUM along the M61 included fitting in 20 extra hours work at the weekends with day and night shifts getting on with work without getting in each other's way.

DRUM was devised by contractor Costain, transport consultancy TRL and technology supplier MTS. It will now be considered for use during other schemes in the North West.

Its use on the M61 scooped first prize for innovation in the Agency's own Phil Stanton awards.  The internal competition is designed to encourage fresh construction solutions from contractors within the Highways Agency's Construction Management Framework. The framework covers south Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands.