The Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland
The Department for Infrastructure Roads team has responsibility for 26,000 KM road network in Northern Ireland. As part of this DfI have responsibility for maintaining, repairing and where necessary replacing the road network.
There is an on-going challenge with highway deterioration which is causing a public reaction to defects and in particular potholes. The amount of vehicle damage compensation paid by government is used as an indication of the problem and in recent years this has increased. Earlier this year a report by the Northern Ireland Auditor General identified that ‘a growing maintenance backlog of 1.2 billion GBP exists as a result of long-term underfunding’.
This same issue was highlighted in the Barton Review which concluded that 143M GGBP should be spent annually on the road network in Northern Ireland to ensure it is fit for purpose, and over the last five years this figure has been no more than 100M GBP annually.
The road network is subject to a routine visual inspection to identify defects however DfI believe that emerging technology could capture more up to date data about the road surface. In effect, DfI currently utilise a reactive road maintenance approach and if DfI were able to use data from numerous sources it would add intelligence to the decision making process and a more proactive system could be adopted. This would enable engineers to anticipate when particular stretches of road will require attention, allowing earlier interventions which will save costs in an area which is significantly underfunded.
DfI has already made some moves to harness data from others as citizens can report defects by phone to NIDirect or online, but this is still based on a visual observation and is reactive. All defects are categorised and their severity will determine the repair priority. The report by the Northern Ireland Auditor General also identified that ‘without more certainty around future funding levels, the Department is inhibited from managing its structural maintenance programme effectively or efficiently’. Clearly if we can better utilise public assets, data and resources, this could enable the optimisation of maintenance activities and this would assist with the maintenance of an effective and efficient road network.
Funding is currently in place for Phase I of the competition, but the DfI reserves the right at its sole discretion to extend from Phase I with successful bidders as part of this procurement. DfI also reserves its right to extend the competition to a third phase to allow for further testing of potential solutions.
Phase I of the SBRI is intended to show the technical feasibility of the proposed concept and its viability as a solution for DfI. The Competition Brief sets out the background to the challenge and the features and benefits sought in solutions developed. It should be read in conjunction with the other tender documents for this competition.
Please note that an information event will be held on Thursday 8th August 2019 from 11.00 to 13.00 at Ormeau Baths, Belfast BT7 2JA. All interested suppliers are requested to confirm their attendance through the eTendersNI messaging systemFurther information: Go to the full advertisement