Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, in partnership with Rosehill Polymers, has developed an innovative product to enhance safety for road workers and the travelling public, reduce works programme durations and deliver significant whole-life cost benefits. Our modular polymer (rubber) Emergency Area (EA) units are manufactured off-site in factory conditions, ensuring a consistent, high-quality and standardised product which can be deployed across Highways England’s network of EAs. We have installed the first rubber EA on our M27 Junction 4 to 11 Smart Motorway scheme. Our solution won the Highways UK Civils & Materials Innovation Award for 2020, with judges praising its development in directly supporting achievement of Highways England’s Safety, Customer Service and Delivery imperatives as detailed below:
• Safety – provides a safer, standardised solution which promotes customer familiarity and reduces safety risks for the workforce
• Customer Service – supports the development of a standard operating model approach and consistent ‘look and feel’ for customers, while minimising disruption on the network through reduced need for traffic management
• Delivery – enables quicker installation times through Lean methodology and offers better whole-life value through a 40-year design life.
Our EA units have a high component of recycled rubber vehicle tyres which is used to create a lightweight, polymer-based and orange-topped unit. This off-site manufactured product has been developed in line with ‘Design for Manufacture and Assembly’ (DFMA) principles. It is quick and safe to install, and can be deployed as a modular system which enables delivery and assembly on-site in a single day. Our rubber EA units have a lower whole-life cost than traditional EAs, and require smaller construction plant for installation whilst guaranteeing a high-quality finish to tight tolerances. This solution has the potential to significantly improve safety, reduce customer disruption and generate delivery efficiencies. The rubber EA unit also offers numerous sustainability benefits, as it uses a recycled product (i.e. vehicle tyres) that would otherwise go to landfill and the panels themselves can be recycled – allowing whole lifecycle usage. As the recycled tyres are ‘cold pressed’ during the production process, this saves 20 tonnes of carbon for every EA unit made (45 tonnes better than the traditional equivalent).
This is the first use of a polymer rubber product, bonded by polyurethane, anywhere on Highways England’s network. The innovative composition of the material aligns with Highways England’s aspiration to increase the use of standard products in transforming the efficiency of the scheme’s delivery across its Smart Motorway portfolio. By moving away from traditional EAs constructed with bituminous materials, our rubber EA solution improves product quality and design standardisation, reduces waste and embeds sustainability into asset delivery. Its rapid deployment across the Strategic Road Network will maximise operational efficiencies and workforce productivity, whilst improving customer and worker safety and whole-life cost performance by significantly reducing maintenance and traffic management requirements. Our product is versatile in that it can be used both on new build construction sites and any retrofit programmes to reduce the distance between existing EAs.