If successful, a trial of a new cable network monitor which can be installed in each supply point and flag up faults straight away means the amount of inspections – and traffic management – needed is set to be dramatically reduced.

The GridKey system detects if a power supply cable has failed or it is not operating correctly. The system will alert a data centre so the issue can be assessed and either monitored or an electrical team dispatched to carry out repairs if necessary.

A trial is under way on the Highways England network in the Midlands and will run for 12 months.

Highways England Supplier Relationships Manager Lisa Maric, who leads the project, said: “This continuous monitoring will bring large operational cost savings by reducing the need for frequent testing and inspections which could lead to fewer lane closures affecting drivers’ journeys.

“We will be able to identify faults more quickly and resolve the issue straight away or continuously monitor the situation.

“It will also improve safety by minimising the need to have our workforce out on the road – safety is always our number one priority.”

The trial, in conjunction with Kier, will see some 60 GridKey units trialled in phase 1 and a further 400 units in Phase 2 tested on both built-up and rural networks and monitoring cables of different types, length and age across the Midlands. This will build up a bank of data to give a better understanding of the electrical loads and stresses on the street lighting power network.

This data will help to monitor lighting circuits as the schemes are rolled out or updated.

Kier Electrical and Compliance Manager Mick Leech said:

“This project will reduce the amount of time that operations are required on the highway and the need to work at height and increases road space availability.

 “The outcomes from the data collected will allow for a strategic approach to end of life replacement of the power cable Infrastructure in a planned manner thus reducing interruptions on the network.”

Highways England has invested almost £2.6 million in the ground-breaking technology thanks to a £150 million ring-fenced fund for innovation projects.

The organisation is committed to investing in research and innovation to enable Highways England to remain at the forefront of ensuring our strategic roads are more dependable, durable and safe.

Benefits of the new monitoring units include:

  • Free flowing traffic – routine delays will be less frequent and journeys more reliable as there will be fewer lane or road closures
  • Improved safety – Highways England believes no-one should be harmed when travelling or working on the network and the use of GridKey will reduce the risk to our workforce
  • Rapid response – there will be an immediate notification of safety issues associated with the cable networks
  • Reduction in carbon footprint – fewer inspections reduces the need to routinely have plant on site