Artificial intelligence will help fix Liverpool’s roads

A mix of artificial intelligence and photography is being used by Liverpool City Council to determine the main priorities in a £34.6m highways improvement programme. Tony McDonough reports

Dock Road
Liverpool will prioritise highway repairs using artificial intelligence


Liverpool City Council is to embark on a £34.6m highways improvement programme that will be planned using a mix of artificial intelligence and photography.

A report going before the city’s cabinet on Friday (March 18) will explain how the council’s highways and transportation team has adopted a new evidence-based approach that will inform priorities when it comes to improving more than 100 roads in the next 12 months.

Specifically, the evidence gathered is being used to identify the roads in the worst condition. The data-led programme has divided Liverpool across three areas – north, central and south – with a new priority criteria that scores a road from zero to five, with zero the best and five the worst.

Highways schemes will be also identified in two categories – simple and complex. A simple scheme will be deemed one that only requires a maintenance intervention and of small size. From a priority point of view, the scheme will need to be rated four or above, to require investment.

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A complex scheme is classed as one that is subject to additional interventions/design considerations, such as active travel, and changes to the traffic regulation order, or with an estimated cost of £1m or more. The priority criteria will be set at 3 or above and if the road has five accidents or more in the previous five years.

This methodology will ensure that the council’s highways and transportation team is able to clearly demonstrate why a road has been selected for improvement which will be clearly set out in a business case for each scheme. For the 2022/23 financial year, the report sets out:

  • 39 schemes to be delivered in the north of the city – of which one is classed as complex.
  • 33 schemes to be delivered in the central district of the city – of which two are classed as complex.
  • 36 schemes to be delivered in the south of the city – of which three are classed as complex.

Funding for the programme comes from a mix of sources including the City Region Combined Authority and the Department of Transport. Following approval by cabinet, the highways and transportation Team will look to issue tenders for the schemes, many of which will involve road resurfacing works.

The year-long programme will also be designed to ensure the schedule of works will minimise impact in any one area, avoiding clashes with longer terms schemes already in place.

Contractors will also be part of the design process and engage in initial stages of each scheme to firm up prices and provide greater assurance that schemes will meet council needs, be high quality and delivered on time and budget.

As well as the highways improvement programme, a tender will also be issued to manage the council’s Newton Road recycling facility. This new 18 month contract will be a key element of the council’s ambition to deliver its carbon net zero strategy.

Cllr Dan Barrington, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “The Best Value report last year highlighted that investment in our roads needed to be smarter to ensure the right areas were being prioritised and that the contracts delivered the right results.

“A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to radically change the approach, the methodology and use of technology to understand and explain how we invest in our highways. We’ve made great strides by adopting AI systems and digital photography to evidence base our new priority system.

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