Picture: National Highways

Official partners of Highways UK, National Highways, turned up in full force to the NEC in Birmingham this week with a staggering 52 speakers appearing across the event in conference discussions and exhibitions. Their Chief Executive Nick Harris took to the keynote stage on Tuesday to discuss the road ahead: promising excellence in highways, amongst many other industry leaders exploring road investment, key infrastructure challenges and sustainability.  

It was safe to say that the agenda was packed with representatives from National Highways, touching on many important industry issues. If you couldn’t catch all the speakers don’t worry as we caught up with Nicola Bell, Executive director of Major Projects at National Highways to discuss their key message conveyed at the event. 

“We’ve been touching on the fact that we continue to deliver our projects out there on the ground and ultimately that’s about making things better for communities. We’ve also been talking about our preparation for the next roads period, what things we might do…One of the key messages has really been around sustainability and how we will make sure that our impact on communities and the environment going forward is as limited as possible”  

Alongside the Chief Executive, Nicola Bell, took to the Big Thinking stage to discuss transforming highway delivery through an enterprise approach.  

“We are going to be talking tomorrow (Wednesday) on one of the panels about Project 13. That is a government initiative with many big infrastructure providers and that’s really about how we can get more efficient in delivering these larger scale projects. How can you be more effective, more efficient and get the projects effectively, to ground a little bit quicker so that communities can get the benefit from that.”  

As the increasing fear over climate change increases, sustainability has been a challenge that many businesses must face as they grow. The pace and scale of the highways sector is unprecedented, and as National Highways focus on their transformation, sustainability is at the forefront of what they do. 

“Today if you go out to the highways UK stands you will see lots of people showing different materials, materials that are more carbon friendly, they’re not using so much carbon or indeed, they are just more sustainable for the future. So, we will definitely be using them in our projects going forward,” said Nicola. “In fact, we are already doing so. For example, next week we have got the A1 Scotsford to North Brimpton opening to the public. Isn’t that great! There are some great stories in that project along with the social value that we’ve provided communities, the materials that we’ve used, the carbon that we’ve saved. That is exactly what we are aiming to do as we continue to deliver, in the future, for our communities.” 

Understanding road infrastructure and networks is not just critical to economic performance but it also provides social growth for communities. They are of vital importance for community development and public assets therefore at Highways UK, National Highways expressed the importance of future-proofing and maintaining the UK’s road networks. 

Nicola commented saying: “Everybody does need roads but it’s about doing so in the best possible way and it’s about making sure that we totally can maintain them going forward so that they are there for communities in the future…We are going to be part of the future, so let’s make sure we are solving the problem together.” 

During their time at Highways UK, National Highways signed a memorandum of agreement with counterparts from Die Autobahn of Germany, and the Rijkswaterstaat of the Netherlands. The agreement establishes a platform for effective cooperation and understanding between the three authorities. This aims to create great opportunities for exchanging ideas, information and even staff.