Cold Comfort calls for open minds to tackle winter roads
The UK’s highways leaders could look to Canada, Russia and even over their nearest county boundary to find new ways to tackle winter conditions – but extreme winter weather now goes well beyond the need to grit roads and shovel snow – these are the view of just two speakers at Cold Comfort, a specialist conference in Harrogate, and now in its 29th year.
Keynote speaker David Quarmby CBE will revisit winter resilience and address the future impacts of climate change. He says that the scene has changed quickly and dramatically the 10 years since his Winter Resilience report for the government, A concern largely about winter resilience to snow and ice and concerns about salt supply has evolved to a much broader canvas of resilience to extreme weather: life-threatening storms and winds, exceptional rainfalls and coastal erosion, alongside greater volatility and unpredictability of traditional winter problems. He will pose the question: Is the understanding and promotion of climate adaptation by specialist agencies being adequately reflected in the plans and resourcing of local transport and highway authorities?
Fresh from a fact-finding mission to Canada, Finland and Sweden, Mark Corbin, Highways Key Route Network Manager for Transport of West Midlands, will explain how Russia is modifying the chemical make-up of its grit to protect soil and vegetation. Now, by testing the salinity of soil in each local area and varying the salt mix accordingly, the salinity of the soil in Moscow has been cut by 50 per cent over the course of a decade.
He will look to Canada for its national non-emergency 311 phone number, available in many cities for residents, businesses and visitors to call for information about services, to make complaints, or to report problems such as potholes, failed street lights or damaged signs. Just as the UK has 101 for non-emergency police contact, a single point of contact across the transport system for users of the network could be an improvement to the experience for all users of the system.
But he will also say that sometimes the solution is closer to home, calling for highways authorities to consider road gritting on a route-based approach rather than by local authority boundaries, meaning that drivers particular on strategic local roads can keep going in a straight line and make better use of materials, equipment and time.
Carol Valentine, Highways Project Manager of Kent County Council will lead a session on IT and data, and will talk about the internet-connected network of temperature sensors installed in the county’s roads. The council aims to optimise existing gritting routes and develop a surface moisture sensor, as well as develop predictive models of road surface treatments that could form the basis of AI-based decision support tools.
Dom Browne, editor of Highways Magazine and chair of Cold Comfort says: “Today’s winter maintenance expertise is moving away from ‘one size fits all’ model, with more of a focus on detailed, localised weather forecasting combined with digitised thermal mapping. This more sophisticated approach is not only saving money for local authorities, but also delivering a better service for road users.”
2020 Programme Highlights include:
- Headline speaker David Quarmby revisits winter resilience and discusses future needs for climate adaptation
- Head of roads at the Department for Transport Steve Berry provides insights from central government to help the country move forward and what they expect from their partners
- Highways England’s David Batchelor, project manager for its Severe Weather Research & Development, will outline the strategic network operator’s latest severe weather research projects and give an update on the outcomes from 2019/20 winter season
- IHE Chief Executive Richard Hayes will discuss the latest winter service training developed to boost expertise and professional knowledge in the resilience sector
- Harvey Cullen, representative of the former Highway Term Maintenance Association (HTMA) on the key role contractors play in delivering frontline services focusing on ‘managing risk and margins in winter service’
Cold Comfort Scotland will be held at Macdonald Inchyra Hotel, Falkirk, on Thursday 23rd April 2020