Traffic Jams

Jonathan Edgoose, director at MCL explains how a team of UK Manufacturers are tackling the Multi-Billion challenge

The Government has recently announced that traffic hold-ups caused by road closures cost the UK economy £4.3billion last year. So what can we do about it?

The problem has been brought home to us in the past year by new initiatives such as the Lane Rental Scheme that is already being rolled out across more than half the roads in London. The Lane Rental Scheme means that every day a road is closed owing to works, the contractor is levied a daily charge. This is intended to minimise delays and disruption – particularly in traffic-sensitive locations – but can cost contractors dearly if their programme of works involves digging up, closing or partly obscuring a right of way for any length of time.

Infrastructure experts have shown how one coned-off section of pipe maintenance work in a main road, even if only a few feet in length, can in some cases cause traffic tailbacks of miles. For all the reasons outlined above, this represents a real headache for the contractors doing the works.

There is, however, one successful answer to this multi-billion problem, and it comes from a team of UK manufacturers.

Staffordshire-based MCL, whose UK-made composite products from meter boxes and kiosks to fire-resistant chambers are widely used throughout British industry, has teamed up with another UK manufacturer – Radlock Systems Ltd – to create a solution that is estimated to save our economy hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

This alliance has jointly applied years of research and development to devise a new product, simply called Radlock.

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Bob Moore, executive chairman at MCL, explains the significance of the solution we have developed: “The UK lost £4.3billion last year through road closures, according to research from the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). The new product, a composite road plate system, allows these trenches to be safely covered far more quickly, so that roads can be reopened around 30% sooner and quickly reopened overnight and at weekends.”

It is estimated that 40% of national road congestion is due to excavations or open cut trenches in the carriageway, therefore if contractors across the UK adopted the Radlock System this would equate to a saving to the UK economy of approximately £0.5billion.

The product is extremely simple: an interlocking composite plate system with a patented locking mechanism to fasten it in place in seconds, Radlock is now the only approved composite roadplate system across the Transport London Road Network, and is accumulating industry recognition all over the UK, from bodies including National Grid, National Joint Utilities Group and Transport for London. Bob Moore continues:

“We are also extremely excited to have been awarded National Grid Best Practice for this product – we are very grateful to contractor Fastflow Energy Services for its recommendation.”

Tony Cottrell, managing director of Radlock Systems adds: “The many advantages of this system over the traditional steel roadplates are obvious. It is lighter and quicker to install, increases site operator safety due to being a two-man lift, while road safety is also increased thanks to its high visibility and non-slip surface. A standard road crossing is deployed in minutes without drilling the road surface, therefore reducing congestion like never before.”

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In one recent trial, it was demonstrated how easily a two-man team can cover a trench in minutes, simply lining up the Radlock plates over the trench, turning a handle to lock them in place, and then opening the road to allow traffic to drive over them – even heavy goods vehicles. In contrast to this, the same contractor would require hours to achieve the same end result if heavy lifting, drilling and bolting steel roadplates over the same trench.

Furthermore, one of the biggest risks to the contractor once the trench has been covered with steel roadplates is theft. Stories are common regarding criminal gangs that drive vans with no floor over a steel roadplate, stop the vehicle, hoist the roadplate inside and sell it for its considerable scrap value, leaving behind the serious danger of an open trench. A composite alternative eliminates this problem too.

Radlock is already in use on UK roads, having been piloted with great success by clients including National Grid and Scottish and Southern Energy. It is now being launched nationally as other contractors and clients recognise its effectiveness.

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