Clive Bairsto and David Capon, chairs of the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC(UK)) People and skills, Policy, Policy & regulation, Regulation, Strategy & management, Opinion

The co-chairs of the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee, Clive Bairsto and David Capon, discuss their five-year vision for street and road works across the UK.

Covid-19 continues to have a profound impact on the way we conduct our daily lives, as our nation is now in the midst of a second national lockdown.

While many have been able to continue working from home, the street and road works sector has come firmly into the spotlight this year, as we have all relied on our essential services more heavily.

Very early on at the start of the pandemic, the sector came together with government to issue guidance on works and advice to practitioners on operating responsibly to help control the spread of the virus. This early action has ensured that lights remain on; gas is running; water flowing; and households are online.

As a sector comprising utilities and local authorities, we will need to adjust to the new normal and work with the government and regulatory bodies to showcase how we can help the country build back better from the pandemic.

It is within this spirit that Street Works UK and the Joint Authorities Group (JAG) have come together under the banner of HAUC UK, to develop a five-year vision for the sector, setting out the role we will need to play in helping to unlock sought for  economic growth across the country.

The UK is on the cusp of an infrastructure revolution in a number of areas, which is even more important as the government seeks to build out an economic strategy to recover from Covid-19. By 2025, we want the street and road works sector to drive forward safety, quality, efficiency and collaboration, while prioritising the interests of customers and the general public. To achieve this, we will need to make sure the sector has the right skills in place to ensure the country thrives in the information and carbon-neutral age.

We have identified five main themes (digitalisation; innovation; skills and workforce; collaboration; environment and decarbonisation), that will be at the heart of developing our industry and supportive to the government in delivering its infrastructure ambitions. If we deliver the ambitions set out against these themes, we are confident that our industry will grow and play a strong part in ensuring the UK economy is enabled for growth, and can thrive.

However, actions do speak louder than words. While we set our sights on a north star, we must now take forward this vision by working with governing institutions and our individual organisations to set a pathway for delivery.

As part of this, we will need government to provide us with a clear policy framework that enables our sector to flourish. Practically, that means future regulation should enable better, smarter and quicker street and road works up and down the UK. This is not an easy task. But ways can and will be found, and our experiences of helping to deliver the Street Manager project – and most recently, responding to Covid-19, has shown how industry and government can work together in a time of crisis as ultimately, our end goals are the same: better street and road works for customers and the public. This spirit of collaboration, whereby our priorities are aligned should now be taken forward if we are to deliver the exciting promise of a carbon-neutral future.

We were delighted to launch our vision at a webinar with representatives from government and industry last week. What was particularly pleasing for us as the co-chairs of HAUC UK was the widespread endorsement we have received, which is a testament to the spirit in which the Vision has been developed.

We have laid down a marker and set ourselves a challenge to play a full part in enabling the next decade of the UK’s infrastructure revolution. By working together, we are confident that we’ll not only meet the promise of our vision but help deliver a prosperous future for our customers and the general public.

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