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East Anglia Future 50

Suffolk set to be at forefront of road technology revolution

PUBLISHED: 01:34 31 January 2019

Suffolk's roads are set to be used to test-drive new highways technology  Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD

Suffolk's roads are set to be used to test-drive new highways technology Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD

Michael Steward

Suffolk is set to pioneer technology aimed at future-proofing Britain's roads as part of a nationwide £22.9m government project.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling  Picture: GREGG BROWNTransport Secretary Chris Grayling Picture: GREGG BROWN

The county’s £4.41m project involves adapting or replacing lamp posts to make them suitable to use as charging points or wi-fi hubs.

Its roads will also host sensors from different suppliers to see which work best in various conditions for scaling up nationwide.

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The sensors will be used to monitor things such as air quality, weather information, traffic data including vehicle type, pedestrian numbers and their movements.

A variety of schemes will be trialled in various counties across the country, including one aimed at helping to stop potholes from forming.

Funding for the new technology is being announced by transport secretary Chris Grayling, with ‘Live Labs’ being set up across various authorities including Kent, Staffordshire, Reading, Suffolk and Solihull and Birmingham. If successful, they could be adopted by other councils.

Schemes include expanding testing on plastic roads in Cumbria, using kinetic energy off Buckinghamshire roads to power lighting and using geothermal energy created from paths to keep car parks and bus stations in Central Bedfordshire from freezing over.

The Suffolk project involves a number of organisations, with Kier Infra as contractor. Other bodies involved in the schemes include Kier Housing, University of Suffolk, Proving Services and Future Highways Research Club, CU Phosco, Telensa, enLight, British Telecom, British Standards Institute (BSI), Institution of Lighting Professionals and the Highway Electrical Association (HEA)

“Today’s trials will see how new technologies work in the real world to ensure our roads are built for the 21st century,” said Mr Grayling.

“Potholes are the number one enemy for road users and this government is looking at numerous ways to keep our roads in the best condition.”

In his budget in November, chancellor Philip Hammond announced an additional £420m for road maintenance for the 2018/19 financial year. This brings the total funding for pothole repair and roads maintenance from 2015 to 2020, including the Live Labs project, up to £6.6bn, the government said.

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