06 December 2021

Winners! Street Works UK Project of the Year Award - one.network, Openreach & JAG UK

Our work with Openreach and JAG UK on the Flexi Permit concept trial won Project of the Year at the Street Works UK Awards 2021!

We are very proud to announce that we have won the Street Works UK 2021 Project of the Year Award, in partnership with Openreach and JAG UK, for our Flexi Permit concept trial. Now, we’re excited to share more about our project with you.

Our aim

The roll out of fibre broadband across the nation presents a major challenge to highway network occupation and management. With the support of the Department for Transport, and Department for Culture Media and Sport we’ve been working closely with several highway authorities including Sheffield, Bedford, Nottingham, and looking to expand it with authorities in the Anglian region namely Suffolk, Essex, Thurrock and Southend, to demonstrate the practicality of a Flexi Permit concept — where network occupations can be managed by ‘area of interest’ across multiple USRNs.

We developed a map-based solution which allows network occupation requests covering a fixed geographical area — rather than the current street-by-street application process — allowing for an agreed scope of activity over a given period.

Our objective: to provide a more efficient method of managing works across multiple streets for both Openreach and the highway authorities and to test the notion of dynamic coordination.

Our solution

Our flexi-permit map-based solution has been built and tested since December 2020. It allows for a flexi permit including up to 15 USRNs (or streets) and, as approved by the Department for Transport, can last for a 28 day or 1 calendar month duration.

So far, the trial has focused on the telecoms sector — specifically small scale civils activity involving large volumes of minor works — on Type 3 and 4 streets.

All passive traffic management methods have been trialled successfully, up to and including footway closures and give and take.

A four week application lead-in has been followed, with the speed of the process increasing across all parties as the trial has continued.

We’ve also been able to confirm that retrospective registration of excavations and reinstatements on Street Manager has caused no detriment to highway authorities inspection regimes, such as Category B and C post-works inspections, if they occur within a reasonable time frame after the end of the flexi-permit.

The results

This trial has been a real success. It has driven innovation, collaboration between Openreach and highway authorities and cross-industry problem solving.

During the trial there has been:

  • No live site issues, FPNs or S74s
  • No resident complaints
  • No unresolvable clashes with other works
  • Highly positive feedback from all stakeholders
  • A reduction in cancelled Permits
  • Better works planning 

We have also been able to:

  • Reduce the administrative burden of permit applications for both the highway authority and the undertaker.
  • Increase the visibility and advance awareness of otherwise non-notifiable activity and minor works.
  • Improve highway network occupation efficiency to the benefit of both highway authorities and the public.
  • Promote dynamic collaborative working, allowing activities to ‘flex’ around each other on non-traffic sensitive areas of the highway network.
  • Minimise the impacts of unforeseen and emergency works to all stakeholders, with activity able to move to another street within the permitted area while the emergency works complete.
  • Increase flexibility in delivery for partners and suppliers due to the ability to work anywhere within the flexi-area, during the in-progress dates.
  • Free up resource on all sides to focus on works that impact Type 1 and 2 streets, where traffic network impacts are greater.
  • Reduce consequential permit transactions including cancellations, modifications and refusals, as well as the need for follow-up transactions, leading to greater efficiency. 

These results are proof that map-based ‘area of interest’ solutions are both workable, practical and can be a successful network management solution for the future in the UK.

This trial has helped realise that real world benefits can be achieved using flexi-permits, with improvements in processes and an overwhelmingly positive experience for Openreach, its contractors and the highway authorities involved, all without compromising the needs of travelling public and residents.

Flexi-permits could completely transform the way minor work programs are performed, with a far wider application than broadband rollout, and we are proud to have helped facilitate this ground-breaking trial.

The trial will continue to run until the end of 2021 and a Department for Transport working party has been established to investigate the most effective way to integrate the concept into the existing legal and IT frameworks (NRSWA and Street Manager) for real-world use.