In 2010, FEHRL launched the Forever Open Road initiative, aiming to reimagine how roads would be designed, constructed, operated and maintained in the future. Addressing global challenges such as ageing infrastructure, congestion, safety and carbon targets, it became apparent that other modes, and particularly rail, faced many of the same challenges. As a response, FEHRL launched, at TRA2018, the FORx4 (Forever Open Road, Rail, Runway and River) cross-modal initiative and produced a ‘Point of View’ document in 2013 (download here), outlining areas to be considered and presenting the concept of shared modes operating with the shared domains of technology, infrastructure, governance and most importantly, shared customers as shown in the figure below. I was one of the authors of this document before establishing Maple Consulting.
FORx4 reinforced FEHRL’s position of expertise in transport infrastructure, rather than purely highways, which is relevant as many of FEHRL’s institutes also undertake research in other transport modes.
Having developed the FORx4 concept, FEHRL submitted proposals to H2020, MG-8.1 and MG8.2 2014 Next Generation Transport Infrastructure; resource efficient, smarter and safer calls to address some of the key areas around construction, users and governance concerned with FORx4. Both proposals led to coordination and support action (CSA) projects being awarded for FOX (Forever Open Infrastructure across (X) transport modes) under MG8.1 and USE-iT (Users, Safety and security and Energy in Transport infrastructure) under MG8.2. Both projects were coordinated by FEHRL with partners from both member institutes, and industrial and research, and industrial partners to ensure that all modes were fully represented.
The aim of FOX was to identify common research needs and innovative techniques in the areas of construction, maintenance, inspection, and recycling and reuse, whilst the aim of USE-iT was to better understand safety, security and energy in transport infrastructure. In this way, FOX tended to focus on the physical infrastructure, whilst USE-iT covered more of the operational aspects. Both projects had an aim to develop a network of engaged experts who would be engaged both during and beyond the lifetime of the project.
Both cooperative research activities effectively operated as one single project, with common project management meetings due to the synergies that exist between the two and as many partners and third parties on one project were also partners or third parties in the other, as well as the fact that FEHRL was the leader of both projects.
A further 24-month CSA, REFINET (REthinking Future Infrastructure NETworks) had highly complementary objectives in developing research objectives that will help improve the construction, operation and maintenance of transport infrastructure in terms of efficiency, safety, security, integration, information and environmental performance. With FEHRL as a partner in REFINET, a relationship developed with USE-iT and FOX, with all three projects sharing a stakeholder list as a mechanism to develop the vision of having a vibrant collaborative community beyond the lifetime of the projects.
Over the course of the FOX and USE-iT projects, a significant number of technologies were identified, which were validated and improved with stakeholder interviews and two stakeholder workshops. A prerequisite was that each challenge covers at least two transport modes, resulting in a total of 42 challenges identified across the three technical work-packages in USE-iT and the four technical work-packages in FOX. Rather than develop deliverables based purely on the work-packages of the individual projects, it was decided it would be advantageous to integrate the research topics against nine ‘Drivers influencing co-modal transport research’, based largely on the ones developed for the FORx4 ‘Point of view’ document. This made sense as it better developed a coherent document and because some work-packages within and across projects had similar objectives; for example the work-package on reduction of carbon in USE-iT shared objectives on resource efficiency with the work-package on reuse and recycling in FOX.
For each research challenge, a headline ‘from-to’ statement detailing the current state and the desired future state, should the research topics identified within each research challenge be successfully undertaken, with an indicative timescale of 2017 to 2030.
The drivers were:
Change in transport demand: focussing on forthcoming changes in future transport mobility based on factors such as demographics, transport cost and new technologies, and the infrastructure response to this.
Globalisation: concerned with increasing globalisation and particularly, pan-European travel where there is a requirement to ensure compatibility of systems, data sharing, international supply chains to facilitate seamless transfer between modes and countries.
High costs of operation and use: covering the high maintenance, renewal and replacement costs of the extensive and well-developed European transport system, and pressures regarding the increasing costs of bitumen and concrete.
Ageing infrastructure: identifying issues regarding Europe’s ageing transport system where the motorway network is 50 – 60 years old, the rail network older still, with both facing loads and traffic volumes not envisaged at the design stage. Ports and airports are having to upgrade to accommodate larger vessels and aircraft whilst all four modes are facing pressure with extreme weather events and climate change.
Scarcity of natural resources: focussing on the increased scarcity of natural resources and the increasing cost of disposal.
Decarbonisation of transport and environmental and social impact: concerning the reduction of carbon from the construction, maintenance and operation of transport infrastructure.
Safety: covering the improvement in safety of the transport system for those involved in construction and maintenance, drivers and other transport operative staff and the public.
Security: focusing on the security both of the transport infrastructure and its users, including ensuring security in transit environments while maintaining the passengers’ privacy demands.
Rapid development of technology and social behaviour: this final driver has no specific research challenges assigned against it, yet is important in the context of the previous drivers and solutions. The pace of technological change is accelerating and there is need for an appropriate balance between embracing and harnessing the potential of these technologies, yet ensure that the new technologies both perform to the user’s requirements and also promote social inclusion.
The result was an integrated roadmap that was submitted as a final deliverable to the USE-iT project and updated as the final deliverable of the FOX project which finished 6 months later. As the relationship with REFINET developed, a summary of the REFINET results were also incorporated in this second version.
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between FEHRL and the European Construction and Technology Platform who led REFINET, it was agreed that FEHRL’s FORx4 vision will be used to take forward the projects and keep the networks active.
The roadmap has now been updated as a standalone document to reflect this, with the research challenges identified to be used as an investment plan and strategy document for research funders, public and private infrastructure owners and operators and contractors.
As a partner on the USE-iT project and as the Forever Open Road Programme Manager, Maple Consulting was heavily involved in developing the roadmaps as part of the USE-iT and FOX projects and this revised version.
The full roadmap is available from both the Forever Open Road (www.foreveropenroad.eu) and FEHRL website (www.fehrl.org) or directly from this link. Additionally, the individual drivers are available separately of the FOR website.
The research challenges identified in this document will be used as an investment plan to both research funders and as an investment or strategy document for public and private infrastructure owners and operators and contractors. Developing the FORx4 vision will require stakeholder involvement from all modes and domains – contact FEHRL if your organisation would like to be involved.