The UK’s road network is worth hundreds of billions and is the country’s most valuable national asset. Yet many local authorities find themselves managing assets by reacting to deterioration and community demands, caught in a continuing cycle of ever declining asset condition. Sometimes known as a ‘worst first’ or ‘chasing the red’ style asset management, which can have serious financial impacts.
Negative financial impacts of ‘worst first” policies
- Reactively repairing potholes and deterioration is more costly than preventing it with systematic maintenance
- The older the assets, the more frequently the surface breaks down
- More spent on reactive asset maintenance means less money available in the future for planned upgrades and renewals
To compound the problem, many local authorities are struggling with constrained road maintenance budgets and a growing employment skills gap. To successfully manage assets you need to see, understand and respond to what is happening now in the asset base, but also anticipate what will happen in the future. However, engineers with the necessary experience, skills and knowledge are in short supply in local authorities and being replaced by less skilled administrators.
The situation is often made more difficult by local authorities working with disparate systems and databases, often storing multiple asset registers in different formats or on spreadsheets. This makes it difficult to gain a holistic view of all highway assets, their value, current condition and maintenance status. Without that data, local authorities cannot develop effective preventive maintenance schedules, or plan for upgrade or renewal of infrastructure, or get an accurate picture of asset maintenance costs.
“Advancements in risk-based artificial intelligence could be the key to saving time, money and lives.”
UK Highway Consultant
Using highway data from a UK County Council, Probit Consulting used Asset Investment Manager (AIM) 4.0 to optimise investment decisions for 1,650 km of road segments. The AIM 4.0 platform was used to create a highways Risk Map, which can be configured to support decision-making on strategic, tactical and operational expenditure. It provided a holistic view of asset lifecycles—from procurement and implementation through to repair and renewal. This allows local authorities to focus on preventative maintenance to increase the value of assets and improve performance in the long-term, instead of a ‘chasing the red’ strategy that decreases the value and increases long-term maintenance costs.
Combining expertise to deliver the perfect solution
We combined the knowledge and expertise of the Council’s independent consultant with the local authority’s data and our specialist decision analytics platform to generate valuable information that can drive cost efficiencies. The data was gathered from multiple sources, including traffic speed surveys such as SCANNER and TRACS vehicles; visual inspections and skid-resistance tests. With AIM 4.0, the UK Council is able to not only understand and respond to how the asset base is performing now, but also anticipate how it will perform in the future. Predicting how future expenditure on roads may impact on service risk and the value it delivers to the end-user. This information is then shown in a graphical representation which can be easily understood by asset managers, stakeholders and members of the public not familiar with highway management.
Creating Risk Maps reflects UK highways code of practice
AIM 4.0 creates Risk Maps that help users visualise what risk and value look like for each asset type and help drive consistency in approach and transparency between asset types. Each asset is shown with its level of deterioration, service impact relationship, intervention costs and benefits. This approach, importantly falls much more in line with the UK Roads Liaison Group’s Well-Managed Highway Infrastructure code of practice, which came into force in October 2018.
The code reads: “Authorities should adopt a risk-based approach and a risk management regime for all aspects of highway maintenance policy. This will include investment, setting levels of service, operations, including safety and condition inspections, and determining repair priorities and replacement programmes. It should be undertaken against a clear and comprehensive understanding and assessment of the likelihood of asset failure and the consequences involved.” [A.2.5.1].
AIM 4.0 offers the opportunity to make major investment decisions with a greater degree of confidence and accuracy, gaining more value from the underlying data, and driving cost efficiency. It provides a holistic picture of asset condition that can be used to create a successful asset management strategy, where highway works are prioritised with more accuracy and cost efficiency than was previously possible, optimising constrained budgets and prioritising essential works.
“Effective highways asset management is about managing roads and resources in the most efficient and sustainable manner possible, for the long-term. I believe the potential of Probit Technologies’ AIM 4.0 technology will be critical in generating the step-change from ‘worst first’ to data-driven decisions.”
UK Highway Consultant