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Highways England Wants to Tap SMEs, New Suppliers for £1 Billion Tech Framework

Highways England has urged “new members of the supply chain” and small businesses to engage with its major new £1 billion IT Commercial Framework (ITCF) — a potential pipeline of software, hardware and services work revealed today. 

Highways England is the government-owned organisation that builds and maintains the UK’s motorways and A roads. The framework opens a week after the government pledged a £27 billion investment plan to overhaul the UK’s roads.

Highways England says it is “laying the foundations for connected vehicles, digital traffic management and enabling two-way communications between roadside infrastructure and in-car devices that will revolutionise inter-modal transportation”.

“Highways England are committed to engaging with new members of the supply chain and encourage participation for all suppliers including SME’s” it said.

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It is holding an engagement event for potential suppliers on September 28. Companies can register their interest at the event framework here.

£1 Billion Technological Framework for UK Roads

The framework will last for at least four years and has been divided into four lots, all based around technological and design support highway system innovation. 

Lot one is for companies that can deliver technology and/or business change programmes across “plan, design, build, implement, as well as support”;

Lot two is primarily for skills, spanning “specialist technical capabilities, services and skills… that can “supplement Highways England client-side capabilities”

Lot three is primarily for services, spanning “guidance and assurance to complex business and technical problems” and embedding business change;

Lot four is for primarily for suppliers of IT hardware and software provision and support, including commodity managed IT and platform services.

The contracts will be awarded between July and August 2021 and the contract notice has been programmed for release in December.

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Highway England’s road investment strategy shows how these goals may be achieved. The report discuses the idea of a “roads revolution” based on a range of new vehicle technologies that are already transforming the serial road network. 

Plans to upgrade the smart highways network to 5G, as well as using machine learning and biog data to augment the efficiency of Active Transport Management (ATM, a key component of smart motorways) are outlined in the strategy.

Technology will help “maximise the efficient use of road space, enabling more journeys to be accommodated and providing the highest standards of user experience” Highways England says in its investment strategy. 

“A new approach to thinking about mobility, supported by the use of ‘big data’ and highly-functional transport applications, has transformed people’s thinking about journeys, resulting in reductions in costs, emissions and congestion”. 

A Virtual Reality Approach to Training

This year the UK highway organisation has been using technological innovation to train its staff, employing virtual reality tools  for control room operators, in partnership with London based VR specialists MXTreality, helping traffic managers to understand the impact of their actions on motorists, without causing any disruption on the roads, which was included in the company’s Smart Motorways Scheme. 

Managing Director of MXTreality Toby Pettinger explained in a statement released by WorkPR earlier this month “Highways England is an innovative organisation and recognises the benefits afforded by VR. Instead of taking more than 400 mission critical operators out of their control rooms for a day, sending them to a training centre and paying for accommodation, we were able to bring the training sessions to them”.

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