Kier Highways will soon begin trials of an automated taper than can close lanes in minutes, eliminating the need for a person to install a cone taper next to live oncoming traffic.

The innovation, SwiftGate, can be fully deployed in around five minutes compared to the 25 minutes it takes road workers to put out the taper of cones directing often fast-moving traffic away from a live lane.

SwiftGate will be installed at the Area 3 Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey which requires regular closures for essential maintenance work. During 2019 there were 14 vehicle incursions into these roadworks putting the lives of workers at risk.

Together with National Highways and Highway Care, Kier will trial the automated taper gates on both the north and southbound carriageways of the tunnel.

The gates clearly and safely filter traffic out of the traffic lane. Cones can then be put out beyond the taper to clearly mark out the closed-off lane.

As well as avoiding the need for workers to manually set out tapers, the arms are a strong visual deterrent which will help avoid incursions, particularly at night-time.

Watch how Swiftgate will work in this video.

Kier Highways senior project manager, Mark Sheppard, said: “The SwiftGate project will give us a great opportunity to trial something that is completely new to the National Highways network, that will modernise the standard approach to road worker protection.

“Traffic management installation can be a high-risk activity, so the opportunity to introduce an automatic solution that has the potential to significantly reduce risk our people are exposed to when working close to live traffic, is a worthy project.”

Head of Lean and continuous improvement Martin Bolt, who has been overseeing the innovation for National Highways, said: “Installing and removing a taper of cones in the face of traffic exposes our road workers to risk, particularly on elevated sections of motorways, bridges or tunnels where there may not be an embankment or place of safety.

“If successful, SwiftGate is another step to zero live lane working for our workforce as we work towards our goal of ensuring nobody is harmed while working or travelling on our roads.

“The automated tapers free up workers to do other jobs and can be put out in just 50 seconds meaning work can begin straight away with less disruption for road users. We look forward to seeing SwiftGate in action at Hindhead Tunnel.”

Highway Care Business Development Director, Ben Duncker, said: “We are very pleased, after many months of hard work from the project team, that we are able to commence the trial of this exciting safety innovation working collaboratively with Kier and National Highways. 

“We are confident that the system will be a success in, not only improving the safety of our traffic management operatives but also improving customer journeys through the faster and more efficient closing and reopening of lanes.

“Safety through innovation is our priority and the ability to trial such new solutions with National Highways is  testament to their commitment to making the roads safer for all users.”