1 June 2021 | Innovation | Collaboration

New highways operation goes live in North Yorkshire

NY Highways, a company created by North Yorkshire County Council to give greater flexibility in highway maintenance, has started operations from today (1 June).

State-of-the-art safety measures to protect the public and workforce are at the forefront as a new fleet of highways maintenance vehicles takes to North Yorkshire’s network of almost 5,800 miles of roads.

NY Highways has taken on the role after the county council’s contract with private sector company Ringway ended. While highways work will form NY Highways’ main workload, there will be opportunities to work for other public and private clients, providing additional income to underpin other County Council services.

The vast majority of staff who worked on the Ringway contract will transfer to NY Highways, retaining experience, knowledge and consistent services from day one.

County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said: “Creating this company is an innovative, forward-thinking move that gives us greater control and flexibility over our highways service delivery.  Many members of the highways team live in North Yorkshire. They are passionate about their communities and take pride in delivering services that are used by their friends and families. This new company will benefit from that local pride and passion. This is local people providing services where they live.

“On day one of NY Highways, the residents of North Yorkshire should see no difference in the standard of service they receive. The company will ensure the continuity people would expect during the transition and will then look continually to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the service delivered to the people of North Yorkshire over the years ahead.”

NY Highways’ fleet of 170 vehicles is made up of 80 new vehicles, ranging from vans to tippers, gully cleaners, street lighting vehicles and gritters, plus vehicles transferring from Ringway. The safety of the public and its workforce is at the top of the agenda. A unique safety measure is reflective logos on fleet vehicles – of huge benefit in servicing the vast rural network at night.

Ross Bullerwell, managing director of NY Highways, said: “Ours will be the first local authority highways fleet in the country to have reflective logos down the side of the vehicles. I believe our vehicles should be visible from all angles, much as police vehicles are. The reflective logos will give the vehicle greater visibility at night. Our line on safety is ‘go home safe, go home healthy’ and that applies to the public as well as our workforce. The more visible we can be, the safer for our workforce and the people we are serving and the lower the risk of accidents.”

Martin Duffy was recently appointed chair of NY Highways. Duffy, who is continuing in his role as Chief Executive of the Local Council Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG), started his career in the highways sector in local government in the 1980s.

The reflective chevrons on the rear of the vehicles and the hi-vis stripes down the sides are made from the highest-grade material. They are top of the range, going beyond existing safety standard requirements, instead working to standards that are likely to be introduced in the future.

“Given that we are a very rural county with many minor roads, it is very important that our vehicles are always as visible as we can make them,” adds Ross. “Even on country roads, this will help other drivers to see us, protecting the public and our operatives.”

Other safety features, in addition to the familiar driver cameras and reversing alarms, include:

a scanner on the nearside to alert the driver to cyclists and pedestrians;

an audible alert to cyclists and pedestrians when the vehicles turn left; and•

a cutaway panel in the passenger side cab door to give the driver greater visibility of cyclists;

Trucks will have a walk-in tipper body, so drivers won’t need to climb to reach the body of the vehicle.

“We have taken a belt and braces approach,” said Ross. “We are investing in safety and in providing the workforce with the right resources. We have the absolute best in PPE (personal protective equipment) for individuals, but also on the vehicles. Every aspect of the resources we’re providing has been thought about very carefully.”

Some items of PPE are made from recycled material – supporting the County Council’s carbon neutral ambition – such as the 100 per cent recycled polyester rain jacket. The gloves include graphene, a very thin but incredibly strong material, as well as being anti-bacterial, dispersing heat and having extra UV protection.

Cllr Mackenzie praised Ringway for the service the company has provided since starting the contract in 2012. Ringway delivered improvements to the network, provided essential winter gritting services and an effective response to emergencies, as well as providing support during the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire. However, as the contract ended it was concluded the best way forward was for the authority to create a company to provide the service.

“NY Highways is about building on what we have and taking it to the next stage, enhancing it with innovation and new techniques,” said Cllr Mackenzie. “It’s about building on best practice and new technologies and maximising efficiency.”

NY Highways will be one of North Yorkshire’s largest employers, with a locally based workforce of more than 250 full-time and part time staff, as well as supporting an extensive supply chain.  For every £1 spent, NY Highways aims to get 70p re-invested into the local economy by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in North Yorkshire and spending an estimated £28m during the coming year on local supplies and services.