Lugg says: Time to harmonise


Standardisation is a key theme of the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) and hence, one of the programme products is to develop a standard ‘highway maintenance specification’ for local highway maintenance services.

There is already clear evidence that where authorities can harmonise specifications on key commodities over geographical areas, they will achieve economies of scale. From the survey of the sector undertaken by HMEP in October 2011, 97% of all respondents supported the development of a standard specification.

The aim of this product is to reach consensus on a standardised specification in areas
where authorities incur the greatest cost – principally, the following series:
• 500 – drainage and service ducts
• 700/900 – road pavement – general and bituminous
bound materials
• 1100 – footways and paved areas
• 1200 – road markings and road studs
• 1300 – streetlighting columns and brackets
• 1700 – structural concrete
• 1800 – structural steelwork
• winter maintenance materials.

The survey identified where authorities commonly varied the standard Manual of contract documents for highway works (MCHW) specification clauses (see the summary of responses received below).

Authorities were invited to download their specifications, and it is these which have been used to guide the development of the HMEP specification.

A review of the information downloaded indicated that many authorities created many minor changes to the MCHW specification for highway works for very little benefit.

Around bituminous surfacing specifications, many of the variations were subtle differences in thickness, binder or aggregate grading, developed over time and through individual experiences.

This backs up the suppliers’ views that significant economies could be achieved if authorities had fewer and more standardised material specifications.

The survey also highlighted that many experienced highway practitioners had left the industry and therefore, authorities were seeking better guidance when choosing materials to use to achieve the best value highway maintenance scenario.

The new HMEP standard specification will therefore be linked to the two asset-management products lifecycle planning tool and bituminous surfacing deterioration model being developed within the programme, together with substantial notes for guidance to help guide practitioners.

Based on a review of the information provided by the series for road markings, structural steelwork and winter maintenance materials are considered to be generally adequate in their current form.

No further work in these areas is proposed, apart from preparing notes for guidance signpostin to areas of specialist advice.

One particular response for series 1300 – streetlighting columns and brackets represented ‘good practice’ that will be developed to simplify the specification process.

Authorities indicated many variations in the other series of the specification which are worthy of investigation and development.

The development will also take into account the standardised specification work from the supply chain re-engineering within the South East 7 Alliance, as well as other current thinking within the sector. It will also draw in the bituminous specifications around repairs and treatments to potholes through the Pothole review (2012).

Technical working groups have been established, led by specialists within each field, to review the information and develop the new specification clauses. Selected representatives from the sector will be invited to contribute and attend workshops to review the suitability of the developed clauses for use by the sector.

These are programmed for June/July 2012 with the final specification being available in late summer 2012.

An explanation of the findings to date (stage 2 progress report) will be published on the Department for Transport website in June, which can be accessed through the following link news/index.php.

Consideration is currently being given to a new brief to supplement the products with the procurement, standardisation and contracting theme. This may lead to further development of the HMEP specification to provide the tools to enable highway authorities to procure term maintenance contracts via one source.

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