Neill Bennett outlines his priorities for the sector
At the UK Roads Liaison Group (UKRLG), we have two key tasks ahead of us on the asset management side. Firstly, we need to continue to demonstrate the value of asset management in order to make the case for long-term funding for the sector. And secondly, we need to rise to the challenge of the climate agenda and prepare for the effect it will have on our activities.
An essential goal for the Asset Management Board over the next year is to establish the standards to be used in understanding our Scope 3 impacts. The risk is that, without standards, there will be myriad approaches to measuring these impacts, leaving the sector unable to benchmark itself. That would have serious consequences for the evidence base supporting future funding rounds, as well as when it comes to demonstrating the sector’s impacts. We have already started to see the effects of some of these difficulties.
Collaboration is key here. The work being done on Scope 3 policy by the Future Highways Research Group, for example, provides an opportunity to build upon robust independent research. The board can help to propagate that research throughout the sector to avoid duplication of efforts.
Elsewhere, the board also needs to guide the development of the Department for Transport’s incentive fund to help it remain relevant to the issues faced by the sector. We can also provide a lead on key themes – namely carbon emissions, resilience, biodiversity, competency and how the board can work with other professional groups to address issues such as the skills gap, age trends and the attractiveness of the sector.
I look forward to welcoming my vice chair, Dr Janvi Shah. As head of asset management strategy at National Highways, she has shown leadership in embedding customer focus into asset management, and her knowledge will be a great asset to the board. Next, I would like to acknowledge Garry Sterritt, the former chair of this board, who heads up asset management for Transport for London. He has led the board with energy and commitment since its inception and has been a catalyst behind the State of the Nation report. And finally, I would also like to thank Paul Boss who, as the outgoing vice chair, has provided the board with a great deal of knowledge and commitment during his tenure.
Who is Neill Bennett?
”I’ll be honest, my background and experience is not that of the typical UKRLG board member.
“I started my career in Australia, training as a cadastral surveyor. I later returned to the UK, ultimately becoming a Chartered Surveyor working mainly on civil and building engineering sites.
“I graduated with a Master’s in environmental biology in 1995, with a focus on environmental impact and geographic information. This qualification helped me during my time with a waste disposal company, where I developed my technical skills and picked up a greater understanding of asset management in this area.
“My current role, working for a local authority, focuses on highways strategy. I’m responsible for delivering asset management strategy, systems, data, forward planning and a highways materials laboratory. I’m also part of the team designing a root-and-branch transformation of the highways service.”