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Smart Motorways: On-the-Road Job Opportunities in UK

Last year the government allotted £1.5 billion to provide smart motorways up and down the country, opening up jobs in various skill sets. In particular, the construction companies appointed are and will be looking for talented quantity surveyors, civil engineers and those with technological skills as well as others in the construction industry.

As this initiative is country-wide from now until 2021, the recruitment market in a variety of areas will be wide open. In fact, the first of the ten scheduled smart motorways has already been completed and is now open according to a report published last month. This one was part of the M1 running from the Midlands to South Yorkshire.

The government appointed six 'joint venture' construction contractors who will tackle these projects. These big name companies* will be recruiting for the various skill sets to complete the improvements on:

  • MI (Midlands)
  • M6 (Midland jobs)
  • M3 (Surrey)
  • M4 (London and Berkshire opportunities)
  • M5 (Worcestershire recruitment)
  • M6 (North West)
  • M20 (jobs in Kent)
  • M23 (opportunities in Surrey and Sussex)
  • M60 (North West)

* Joint ventures between: Balfour Beatty/VINCI*,Costain/Galliford Try, Carillion/Kier, Amey/Arup,  Jacobs/Atkins,CH2M/Hyder

What is a Smart Motorway?

A smart motorway makes driving safer and smoother because congestion is controlled and drivers receive signals to indicate how they should drive to help this.

  • Basically drivers must keep to the speed limits that are indicated on the overhead signage for each lane
  • If the overhead lane has a red X then this lane is out of bounds
  • A solid white line indicates the hard shoulder - which should only be used if the driver is instructed to (broken white lines mark the lanes)
  • Remember when there is no hard shoulder to use the refuge areas in case of emergencies using your hazard lights

In the future we are likely to see information like this beamed straight into our smart cars.

How do you Make a Motorway Smart?

Smart motorways aren't new. The first one in the UK was opened in 2006 on the M42 and in 2014, part of the M25 became smart.

Making a motorway smart is technology driven and is used to control and manage traffic. If you were ever concerned about 'big brother watching you' this is certainly true of a smart motorway.

There are two types of smart motorways. There is the all lane running (ALR) type where the hard shoulder is turned into a permanent additional lane. The second type is a controlled motorway,(here comes the Big Brother one), where the lanes are controlled by variable speed limits as necessary.

First of all, road sensors detect speed while CCTV cameras monitor 'incidents'. Using overhead signs, communication with drivers allows the roads to be managed efficiently and fast.

By setting variable speed limits, again communicated via overhead signs, congestion and high volumes of traffic can be managed. At peak times an extra lane (once the hard shoulder) can be opened when emergency refuge areas are made available for emergencies and breakdowns.

What are the Advantages of a Smart Motorway?

This investment in our infrastructure is long overdue. Basically our congested roads and the increase in traffic volumes is currently costing us millions every year. So the main advantage of making motorways or stretches of motorways smart is to save time and money at the end of the day.

It is estimated that a smart motorway can achieve an extra 33% capacity on already busy roads. This will save time and money for businesses and people in general. The Department of Transports estimates the savings will be in the region of £10 billion a year for lost time. This would impact businesses to the tune of £2.2 billion in freight delays and as much as 28 million lost working days.

It is also cheaper to turn motorways or stretches of road smart than to widen lanes. The technology accounts for about 33% of the total costs with the biggest outlay on adapting the hard shoulder. These changes include building verge barriers and drainage. It is still cheaper than adding an additional lane or trunk road per mile to the ratio of £6.4 million:£9.9 million.

This £1.5 billion investment will mean an extra 286 extra lane miles.

Which Skill Sets?

If this is your area of expertise or you have transferable skills, the UK's smart motorways will require all the usual suspects including quantity surveyors and civil engineers. For on-going operation and maintenance there will also be opportunities for technology experts, traffic management and analysis expertise as well as environmental and economic assessment skills.

Make sure that you have submitted your CV to us so that you don't miss out on any of these



Steve Thomas
Director - Hong Kong & UK Construction Recruitment Specialist

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