4 September 2019

Transport for London (TfL) recently announced that it is taking steps to make sure that the roadworks in and around the city are safer and smarter whilst the network is being worked on.

During the London RoadLab programme, suppliers were invited to pitch their ideas for tackling some of the largest problems caused by roadworks in the city, and at the end of the programme, nine solutions were shortlisted. The finalists received £200,000 each to help develop their scheme further.

Following the ten-week programme, four products, with a total value of up to £2m, were chosen to be taken through to the contract negotiations stage. These included:

  • Immense Simulations - Developing an automated way of modelling the impacts of roadworks before they are done, which will improve the flow of traffic and reduce disruption. This modelling is traditionally a very time-consuming process.
  • Mobilised Construction and Route Reports - Two different solutions that fit internet-enabled devices to TfL buses and Dial-a-Ride vehicles and collect data on road quality. This would allow TfL to identify where the road surface is wearing out in real-time and make it much easier to predict where maintenance will be needed. This data could also help the London Boroughs with their highway maintenance activity.
  • SAM - Using artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor social media to identify incidents and emergency events on the roads. This could allow TfL to respond to incidents more quickly.

Roadworks on London Roads

TfL’s Lane Rental programme funded the challenge. Under this programme utility companies effectively “rent” road space whilst they’re being dug up for maintenance. The money raised is then invested into tackling congestion in the capital and minimising the impact of roadworks. Since its start, this scheme has saved £100m in lost travel time.

The London RoadLab programme is the first example of TfL using an innovation partnership procedure and the first time TfL has worked with the private sector. The process has been created to make it easier for the public sector to encourage invention and innovation from start-ups, as well as larger companies, without getting in the way of competition or operational transparency.

Michael Hurwitz, TfL's Director of Transport Innovation, said: “We're working closely with partners across London to make the capital one of the world's smartest cities and these projects all have the potential to make a real difference to the safety and efficiency of roadworks in London.

London RoadLab is a completely new way of procuring for TfL and we're excited to see these products in action on the capital's streets, helping to tackle congestion and making our roads safer, and smarter.”

At the same time, Cllr. Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee, said: "London's boroughs are responsible for managing 95 per cent of London's streets, helping millions of people to make safe and reliable journeys every single day.

Roadworks barrier on London Road

Boroughs work hard to plan and coordinate roadworks as efficiently as possible but urgent repairs and incidents are unpredictable and cause delays and disruption that eat up time and resources.”

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Roadworks in London at night