18 July 2022 | Collaboration

Industry Interview: Changing the relationship between transport and people

Richard Hardesty – Commission Manager (Services) at WSP – speaks to the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG). 


Q. What are the biggest challenges facing the highways sector?

A. “The biggest challenges we face today include recruitment and retention, whilst encouraging step-change in the approach to Net Zero and efficient delivery through innovation.

“The advent of hybrid working has created a desire for full-time remote working, which does not always align with a team-based design approach. That and the draw of nationally significant infrastructure projects with increasing salaries.

“There is increasing recognition of the need to reduce carbon and use digital technologies to improve efficiency, although there is still a perception that these approaches ultimately cost more at a time when the other cost continually increase.”



Q. How is WSP working with councils to help them deliver highway services?

A. “Local authorities across the UK benefit from WSP’s local dedication on an international scale. We often provide locally-based seconded staff, to complement a client highways team, whilst enabling a top-up arrangement giving quick access to a range of specialist expertise such as Transport Planning, Ecologists, Hydrologists, and more.

Our clients also benefit from support with net-zero, digital engineering, and being future-ready, gaining from WSP’s global expertise.”


Q. How has your team adapted to the challenges brought about by Covid-19?

A. “As the world around us changes at pace, at WSP we have an unwavering focus on connecting our people with clients. We understand that every place has its own set of unique needs, challenges and potential opportunities. The Lincolnshire commission team working alongside our Lincolnshire client, has adapted well to recent challenges, mainly through embracing digital technologies which enabled remote collaboration. Interestingly the initial shift to remote working was much easier, after the original lockdown shock, than it’s proving for some colleagues in adapting to a return to the office alongside a hybrid approach.”


Q. How much importance is put on innovation within your business and in what ways can it enable change?

A. “The transport sector is on the verge of unprecedented opportunity. The UK Government estimates that the coming two decades will see transport technology change faster than at any time since the Victorian period.

“Technology and innovation are key drivers for helping improve efficient delivery to our clients. WSP offers both policy and technical support to clients and acts as the liaison between authorities and emerging technologies. Technology applications are expanding into all aspects of our society and their impact is profound, as cities, buildings, and infrastructure become ever smarter, with solutions for smart mobility, security, healthcare, governance, and many more becoming commonplace. A great example of this is gully sensors, which notify when a gully needs cleaning as opposed to being cleansed on a programme; whether needed or not. These, in turn, can help minimise the risk of highway flooding events, and ensuing work including Section 19 investigations.

“By exploiting these digital advancements to put people front and centre in the design, development, maintenance and operations of assets and services, the sector has a golden opportunity to change the relationship between people and transport for the better.”


Q. In what ways do you collaborate with local authorities and the wider supply chain?

A. “WSP collaborate with a range of clients and their supply chain partners, where in most cases we encourage partnership wide working groups on key subjects such as health & safety, innovation, net-zero, and social value.

“In our Lincolnshire partnership, we have pooled our volunteering commitment with those of Balfour Beatty and Colas, to ensure a range of schemes can be completed as efficiently as possible. The most recent being all parties combining to renovate playground equipment at three locations in a market town in the county.”


Q. How important is the role of LCRIG in driving change within the sector?

A. “This role is very important and has the potential for saving time and money for members. LCRIG’s promotion of collaboration will ultimately see improved highway services, maintained to a standard that road users expect and deserve. This collaborative approach, alongside important subjects including Net Zero and Innovation, has the potential for accelerating learning and progress across the sector.”


About WSP

WSP is a leading professional services consulting firm, dedicated to our local communities and propelled by international brainpower. We are technical experts and strategic advisors including engineers, scientists, architects, planners, surveyors and environmental specialists, as well as design and programme management professionals. We deliver lasting solutions in the transportation, infrastructure, property, environment, power and industry sectors.