Collaboration is key to stopping metal theft on our highways

Posted on by Gary Postle


Gary Postle – Collaborative Procurement Working Group

According to the Home Office, metal theft costs the UK economy £220 million each year1, concurred by reports from the Highways Agency2, which had 149 cases of theft in a 12-month period, with a cost of £5.9 million to repair and replace the metal and cables.

This is becoming a major issue in the industry and the consequences of cable/metal theft are wide reaching. Not only does it cost money and time to replace the cables, there is also the issue of health and safety on major roads caused by enforced lane closures and accidents which can lead to major disruption.

As well as tackling this key issue, there is also a big push for the industry to be more focused on health and safety, innovation and value creation to name just a few significant areas. But how can all of these issues be tackled?

The Highways Agency, which is responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of the strategic road network in England, formed a Collaborative Procurement Working Group (CPWG) to focus on major road projects included within the HA Strategic Review 2010.

They invited companies to tender for the supply of access covers and gratings and subsequently form Innovation Teams, whose responsibility would be to understand what issues are being faced on these major roads and generate ideas on how they could be mitigated.

Established in 2012, the group has been working to provide a strong supply chain solution to help tackle some of these key problems, such as designing a product to aid the prevention of cable theft – thus the T-Lok device on the Opt-Emax access cover was designed.

On major highways, after every 60 – 100 metres there is a chamber used as an access point. These covers are usually hinged and are also specified as being locked, or lockable.

To eliminate the potential of theft, the T-Lok access cover has been designed with a unique lock key. This is part of a bolted mechanical system, meaning that unless you have the specific key for the T-Lok device it would not be possible to open the cover.

Importantly, it has also been designed to meet with the requirements of LPCB LPS 1175 Issue 7 Level 3 rated, which is a highly credible standard and recognized globally.

This product has been created specifically for the Highways Industry, and is a great example of how collaboration between suppliers and companies can really make a difference, not only in terms of the reduction of costs, but also from an innovation and best practice point of view.

T-Lok will not only help reduce the incidents of theft and vandalism, but also reduce the amount of time and cost spent replacing access covers, cable and the potential of accidents on the highway due to non-working matrix and gantry signs.

The group contains key players in the industry including Balfour Beatty, Saint-Gobain PAM UK, Carillion, Costain, BAM and Morgan Sindall.


2 There were 149 incidents in the region in 2011-12, compared with seven in the previous year, a BBC Inside Out Freedom of Information request revealed.

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Gary Postle

The Collaborative Procurement Working Group (CPWG) consists of Saint-Gobain PAM UK, Carillion, BAM/Morgan Sindall, Costain, Balfour Beatty, Asset International and Polypipe, and has been in existence since 2012 to support the Highways Agency.