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Reducing the carbon footprint of our roads

The Highways Agency outlines how it plans to go about achieving the aims of the Infrastructure Carbon Review and what that means for its supply chain.

There is no better time than now to drive sustainability into the core of the Highways Agency and everything we do.

The Infrastructure Carbon Review comes as we are preparing for a step change in investment in the country’s major roads.

Relentless focus on innovation

Delivering the government’s ambitions for transforming our road network, as laid out in the Action for Roads command paper, will require a relentless focus on innovation, and we welcome the conclusion of the ICR that the infrastructure sector should pursue lower-carbon solutions at less cost.

“We’ve gone a long way toward measuring our carbon emissions, but having done that we need to manage and reduce them”

As operator of England’s motorways and major A roads, and as a major infrastructure client, the Highways Agency was part of the infrastructure working group and a consultee in developing the ICR. 

We are part of government, so are already committed to the Greening Government Commitments, which include a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2015 against a 2009/10 baseline.

We’ve gone a long way toward measuring our carbon emissions, but having done that we need to manage and reduce them.

Suppliers encouraged to provide ideas

We’re actively encouraging our suppliers to innovate in the construction methods and materials they use, finding the lower-carbon and lower-cost options.

This could include using materials with an optimum design life and less embodied carbon, recycled materials or it could be a case of sourcing materials nearer to site and reusing materials on site in order to minimise transportation movements.

There is potential for the Highways Agency to widen its scope further and consider additional sources of carbon emissions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all activities, and to be in line with best practice industry guidance. 

Working with the supply chain

This needs to be a shared journey with our supply chain.

“We’re actively encouraging our suppliers to innovate in the construction methods and materials they use, finding the lower carbon and lower cost options”

We must work closely to achieve a step change in performance, embracing greater innovation and more cost-effective ways of delivering lower-carbon sustainable outcomes for the strategic road network.

As Doug Sinclair in our major projects team says in the ICR: “Carbon reduction is all about innovation – you only get different results by doing things differently – it’s that simple.”

Dean Kerwick-Chrisp is head of sustainability at the Highways Agency

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