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£30 Million Government Spending to Decarbonise UK Highways

£30m funding granted by the UK government to decarbonise highways

Seven projects across the UK have been awarded funding to develop and use new technologies to reduce emissions, improve connectivity, and move to net-zero local roads.

The focus on decarbonisation

The UK government’s £30 million funding announcement has been for projects that aim to decarbonise highways infrastructure. These projects, led by local highway authorities, focus on long-term decarbonisation of roads and streetlights in various regions across the UK, from Lanarkshire to Devon. The Live Labs 2: Decarbonising Local Roads competition, which supports these initiatives, aims to transform local authorities’ approach to decarbonising roads.

The winning projects include measures to reduce carbon emissions from streetlights and the creation of asphalt made from green waste such as grass cuttings. Other proposals aim to drive changes to the design, construction, and maintenance of typical UK highway construction, as well as the development of a system approach to creating a net carbon-negative model for green infrastructure delivery.

Government’s vision for net-zero

The Government is committed to creating well-paid jobs through innovation and investment across the UK as it accelerates the road to net-zero. The seven successful local highway authorities and their partners will be provided funding, subject to due diligence, to develop, test, pilot, and roll out new technologies to facilitate decarbonisation, including in supply chain emissions.

“The UK is a world leader in technology and innovation, and we must use that strength to drive decarbonisation and the next generation of high-tech jobs that go alongside it. We are supporting this vital agenda to help level-up through £30 million funding for ground-breaking projects and boosting regional connections to support growth.”

Richard Holden, Roads Minister, Department for Transport

Successful bids

  1. Highways CO2llaboration Centre for materials decarbonisation, Transport for West Midlands: supporting upskilling and developing a team in the West Midlands to decarbonise highways via two initiatives, including a ‘Highways CO2llaboration Centre’, and demonstrator sites showcasing and monitoring innovative decarbonised highway materials.
  2. UK Centre of Excellence for Material Decarbonisation in Local Roads, North Lanarkshire Council: creating a centre that will develop a materials testing programme identifying and deploying the latest tech for road construction, in addition to testing and deploying recycled materials from other industries to build roads.
  3. A net carbon-negative model for green infrastructure management, South Gloucestershire Council and West Sussex County Council: aims to develop a first-of-its-kind approach to creating a net carbon negative model for building and delivering green infrastructure, for example recycling biomass from green waste.
  4. A382 Carbon Negative Project, Devon County Council: aims to drive changes to the design, construction and maintenance in typical aspects of highway construction to reduce carbon emissions, and to build a new link road including walking and cycling options
  5. Ecosystem of Things, Liverpool City Council: aims to introduce an ‘Ecosystem of Things’, exploring a scalable and transferrable approach to understanding various systems (including design, public spaces, materials/process technology, recycling infrastructure and the legal, contractual and procurement processes) at city level to embed and adopt decarbonisation initiatives.
  6. Decarbonising street lighting, East Riding of Yorkshire Council: plans to work on increasing efficiency for low carbon lighting to make sure they can still be clearly seen by drivers and to create a framework for an alternative manual for highway lighting, signing and road marking
  7. Net Zero Corridors, Wessex Partnership: will pioneer net zero roads that are built without creating more carbon emissions overall in Somerset, Cornwall, and Hampshire in 9 ‘net zero corridors’ linking rural and urban areas

Final thought

Transport is one of the most polluting sectors in the UK and a major contributor to climate change. In the current climate crisis, green infrastructure investments are the order of the day. While the Department of Transport invests £30 million for net-zero, the Government’s consistent commitment to levelling up needs to be highlighted in such initiatives, through investments reaching not just urban but rural areas as well. Regional equality will be much better achieved through improved connectivity and equitable investment across regions the UK.

Although the Government’ Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy has acknowledged that the commitment to ‘low regret technologies’ for net zero will be unprecedented in terms of scale, pace and cost, what remains to be seen is how the allocated funding within transport will make its way to regions currently experiencing a disproportionate share of the climate crisis.

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