Traffex: Highways England procurement power will drive zero carbon agenda

Highways England’s forthcoming net zero carbon plan, currently awaiting Whitehall sign-off, will place significant emphasis on the company’s procurement power to drive low carbon approaches from its supply chain.

In a live online seminar at Traffex, Dr Adam Simmons, the government-owned company’s director of future road investment strategies and government relations, said it was working to co-ordinate the release of the plan with government.

In terms of reducing carbon from maintenance and construction work on the strategic road network, Malcolm Dare (pictured), Highways England’s executive director, commercial and procurement, said: ‘We’re only going to achieve this in conjunction with our supply base. So we have to work very closely with, and support and change, as rapidly as we are asking others to change.

‘Where Highways England can really catalyze change [is] we do spend a lot of money; we’re spending in the region of £4.5bn to £5bn a year and in some areas we really can help support and take the change forward in that particular supply arena.

‘There’s going to be some areas where we’re going to look at our supply partners and say, well fundamentally you need to invest your money in developing products to meet the needs.

'And in return, what we would have to do is provide an accuracy of demand that maybe we haven’t done in the past, so that companies have a certainty of investing to develop those products, knowing that we will be taking those products as soon as they become available.’

He added that, in the case of concrete and cement, something of which Highways England buys a vast amount: ‘If other major infrastructure schemes like HS2 are already using, have selected and standardized low carbon concrete, we would look to adopt similar approaches.

'We do not want to go out and have a Highways England unique product which is effectively identical to a product made on HS2. We really want to help stimulate and catalyze a British low carbon concrete capability.’

On the issue of fuel for plant, Mr Dare said that Highways England should, in conjunction with the supply base, have discussions with manufacturers.

‘Because at the moment it is harder to see what the alternate power technology is to diesel fuel. But if we can understand by working with the sector and working with plant manufacturers in a triangle when credible alternate power sources come through, again what we can then do is stimulate that demand by saying by a certain date in time we would expect to see non fossil-fuelled plant being used on the network.’

In response to a question from a visitor as to whether in future the supply chain’s approach to carbon reduction will be a large part of tender assessments, Mr Dare said: ‘It definitely will.’ He compared this to the Government’s approach to building social value into tenders.

He added that he would like to see hard evidence of what bidders were actually doing, rather than ‘glossy brochures'.

Content from Traffex and the the British Parking Association's Parkex is still available on demand online. Registration for both events is available here.

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