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News from the UK Civils Industry 10th April 2019

Posted by: Melonie Debenham
Industry News

Revolutionary AI for the water industry

General Manager for Water Utilities at Xylem UK & Ireland Andrew Welsh has said that the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the water industry will be “critical for meeting the challenge of water scarcity and improving resilience.”

The water industry is constantly working towards seeking new and more intelligent ways in which to deliver vital resources to those who need them most. However, developing smarter solutions presents certain challenges and the water management sector has been conservative when adopting new technologies in the past. 

Many experts believe that AI has the potential to fundamentally transform the economics and productivity of water management in years to come. In turn, more intelligent water solutions will become available to areas wracked by water scarcity.

AI is best explained as the theory and development of intelligent response computer systems. These systems are able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence and analyse data at a far quicker speed and larger scale than any person could ever manage. AI has the potential to predict and determine any number of responses to given challenges on water and sewerage networks as well as the treatment works. 

Welsh said: “For the water industry, the ability to use AI solutions to learn and problem-solve at an unprecedented pace will be critical for meeting the challenge of water scarcity and improving resilience. Issues such as aging infrastructure, climate change, severe weather and overpopulation are continuous concerns for water systems managers and exacerbate the overarching problem. For these managers, who must combat the issue while also maintaining exacting environmental and public health standards combined with affording vital repairs, AI will be a powerful tool.”

Welsh goes on to explain that water can utilise AI and machine learning to monitor their sensor network to reduce annual sewer overflows. “AI could also allow water systems managers to better affect the infrastructure for which they are responsible and further supplement knowledge required to resolve challenges unique to their local area,” he said. “AI represents the next evolution of tools that will propel the industry forward, making the life of the operator easier and allowing them to do more, with less.” Full story.

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New £50 million vision for North Yorkshire’s highways

North Yorkshire is looking to transform the way it delivers highways services to ensure that it can face the challenges that lie ahead whilst ensuring that service levels are maintained.

North Yorkshire County Council currently delivers its highways service via contracts via maintenance contractors. Through these arrangements the authority has delivered significant improvements to the condition of its highways network, provided essential winter maintenance services as well as ensuring an effective response to emergencies such as flooding. However, these contracts will come to an end in 2021.

An assessment of future service challenges has concluded that the preferred future option is a ‘Teckal’ company for the delivery of the operational highway maintenance services along with the appointment of a single consultant for the provision of the professional service requirements. Together these contracts are currently worth in the region of £50 million a year.

The ‘Teckal’ company would be wholly owned by the council which would ensure a local focus, but companies like this can also operate commercially, with the potential to generate some income in the future.

Cllr Don Mackenzie, executive member for access, said: “It’s a model which would allow us greater control and flexibility over our highways service delivery, while removing the contractual constraints that exist with the current arrangements. Through more direct accountability for the works on the ground we could deliver a ‘right first time’ service with the customer continuing to be at the heart of everything that we do. While it’s not expected that a new company would deliver work for external customers during the first years of operation it is important we are innovative and consider the strongest options for improving services that also represent best value all round.”

If the executive members agree the new ‘Teckal’ model, new services would be delivered from 1st April 2021, subject to confirmation that the current contract completes on 31st March 2021. Full story.

Tendors wanted for £80 million link road

Cornwall County Council is inviting tenders to design and build the St Austell A30 Link Road project, which gained planning last week. Including land purchase, the scheme is expected to cost £80m, with the design and build contract expected to come in around £60m.

The project would form the third and final phase of the new connection between St Austell and the A30. It follows on from the A391 Carluddon road improvement scheme which was completed in 2015, and the earlier A391 project completed in 1997.

In addition to supporting residential sites, the scheme aims to support the regeneration of local towns including Roche, Bugle and Stenalees through the provision of complementary works to reduce congestion and current bottlenecks in these towns.

Work is scheduled to start in spring 2020, with the new road opening in early 2022. Full story.

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