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Road to Net Zero – Project Update

Our Discovery Phase is complete. This is an important milestone on our journey to help reduce carbon emissions in the UK’s Street and Roadworks sector.

The UK’s Streetworks and Roadworks sector has completed a Discovery Phase that kickstarts a plan to reduce the carbon emissions in all of its processes and products. This is the first part of the sector’s Road to Net Zero project – a roadmap for change that’s jointly sponsored by Transport for London (TfL) and the Highway Authority and Utilities Committee UK (HAUC(UK)).

ROAD TO NET ZERO Project Update - Download here
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The discovery phase

Partnerships with the University of Birmingham and EA Technology enabled a sector-wide approach to achieving Net Zero emissions.

Supported by a diverse working group, made up of Thames Water, UK Power Networks, Cadent Gas Limited, SGN, Gigaclear, Southwark Council and the Greater London Authority, and aided in delivery by GeoPlace, the project set out to determine how best to maximise the sector’s contribution, posing fundamental questions on sustainability, the use of resources, innovations, actions vs consequences and requirements for delivery of the following research areas:

  • Climate Change Net Zero & Beyond
  • Materials & Process Innovation
  • Measuring Environmental Performance

Given the ambitious project scope/timeframe and overall aims, it was determined that the overall project be split into three; Discovery, Design and Delivery.


Road to Net Zero - Discovery Report

The UK has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but most UK local authorities have set earlier targets. Accordingly, the Street and Roadworks Sector must coordinate its approach to reducing the carbon emissions embedded in various processes and products.

This document summarises three work streams identified in the Discovery Phase of the Road to Net Zero project – the roadmap for change – which is jointly funded by Transport for London (TfL) and the Highway Authority and Utilities Committee (HAUC(UK)).

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Deliverables include

  • Development of an initial methodology for estimating sector emissions
  • Estimation of sector emissions based on 4 million works taking place each year with breakdown between types of work and area of emissions
  • Estimation of the existing sector vehicle and machinery energy demand
  • Detailed reviews of the domains that influence roadworks and streetworks practices
  • Creation of system maps to identify all stakeholders and all value generating opportunities from transforming current practices and introducing new practices, and outline design options and business model frameworks to consider the feasibility of such changes
  • Identification of the key areas that need to be addressed by the sector to minimise CO2e emissions:
    • Use Less and Deliver Efficiencies
    • Zero Emission Vehicle Fleets
    • Zero Emission On-Site Machinery
    • New Materials & Processes
    • Reusability and Effective Recycling
  • Evaluation of alternative design options involving mandated minimum-dig and no-dig (or trenchless) technologies
  • Evaluation of alternative design options involving the integration of green infrastructure interventions for the creation of an ‘all consequences’ optioneering framework for road and street works
  • The formulation of alternative business models and a case for change (underpinned by a theory of change) for local road and buried infrastructure engineering
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Highlights of Findings

  • Major works make up 17% of works but 43% of emissions
  • Initial sector emissions estimate: 30-38 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). Equivalent to 76,000 flights from London to New York
  • Identification of key areas of emissions:
    • Operations
    • Temporary Traffic Management
    • Materials
    • Congestion
  • Common theme across key areas of emissions is energy demand: 59 terawatt hours (Twh). Eequivalent to 3.5m UK homes
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Data collection

Given the initial enthusiasm and support from the sector, it was disappointing that getting to the right people/information/knowledge (inclusive of contractors and supply chains) was more difficult than anticipated.

To provide meaningful outputs, the collected data was supported with alternative sources, bridging some of the gaps. From this, it was found that emissions data is generally collected on a company/organisation basis rather than works, providing a more holistic view of the sector with further work required to gain greater granularity and understanding. Details on how this will be mitigated going forward is detailed within the proposal for the design phase.