Considerately ensuring the smooth running of the M25 – Connect Plus Services’ Blunts Farm depot

Connect Plus Services’ Blunts Farm depot in Theydon Bois near Epping has been praised by the Scheme Monitor for its exceptional practice.

Connect Plus Services (CPS) maintains and operates the M25 and all adjoining trunk and slip roads, on behalf of Highways England through a 30-year DBFO (Design, Build, Finance & Operate) contract which started in 2009.

The M25 is one of the busiest sections of road in the UK and is undoubtedly one of the most significant, carrying more than 15% of all UK motorway traffic. Blunts Farm in Essex is one of seven CPS depots located off the M25.

CPS undertakes year-round planned and reactive maintenance to its 440km network, responding to incidents, delivering a winter maintenance service from October to May and keeping the network flowing for the thousands of daily road users.

Outlining the challenges of the work, Connect Plus Services’ Service Delivery Manager, James Irwin said:

“The Blunts Farm depot is quite isolated and we have no immediate neighbours. However, we are aware of the surrounding communities through our commute to and from work, and accessing our network.

“Our staff act considerately. We stipulate no loud music, no bad language, clean and tidy vehicles and workwear. This ensures that we present a positive image to the wider community as standard, regardless of whether we are in our personal vehicles, or CPS/Highways England branded fleet.”

Being in a non-residential location, the project team made successful moves to build relationships with the wider community, including a nearby primary school. The depot produced compost for the school’s vegetable patch, flower bed and wormery after recycling its canteen waste at the depot.

Moving even further afield, the CPS team also carried out a PPE amnesty, collecting old clothes, workwear, shoes and boots for a charity, which will go to Africa. This all contributed to increased staff satisfaction.

Here are some further examples of best practice initiatives carried out by Connect Plus Services to comply with the Considerate Constructors Scheme:

  • CPS is a joint venture between Balfour Beatty, Atkins and Egis Road Operations UK. Staff from all three parent companies came together under the CPS banner and developed their own brand, to provide a sense of unified belonging. The brand appears on all business collateral. Depot vehicles and the site were all re-branded with the client’s identity, Highways England, and all outside contact was directed at the client call centre, with comments relayed to individual depots.
  • The project team’s website and Twitter accounts are widely publicised internally to encourage staff to view them as channels that augment internal
  • LED lighting was included on operatives’ Hi-Vis workwear and banksmen have illuminated wands for directing vehicle movements.
  • CPS’s aim is to leave a positive legacy in the communities in which they work. As part of its wider Corporate Social Responsibility plan, each of its depots is adopting a local school. CPS has created a toolkit of ideas, ranging from litter and environmental awareness to reading groups, career advice, and the provision of high visibility jackets for school outings. Blunts Farm, the first depot to adopt a school, is leading the way in this programme.
  • The depot donated rock salt for use during the winter and to grit the immediate access roads.
  • The project had a dedicated Twitter account to inform the public of planned procedures and useful information, such as the gritting service during the winter months.
  • Any information on motorway works within one kilometre of residents is detailed in letters to residents, who may also receive personal visits.
  • The site team hosted several visits to discuss safety around the school, parents’ driving habits and items of interest to pupils.
  • Residents potentially affected by a sheet piling programme taking place between junctions 25 and 26 were provided with earplugs and work areas were fitted with noise-reducing shrouds.
  • Canteen waste was retained as compost and used at the local school to provide a vegetable patch, flower bed and wormery.
  • The depot was replacing its old boiler with a biomass version so that waste timber from the network could be used as fuel. It also automatically recorded vehicle fuel consumption on refilling, and recorded calculated MPG delivery mileage.
  • Segregated skips were used to improve recycling performance and the business was aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2020.
  • Fleet vehicles were Euro 6-rated and idling was investigated, along with start/stop technology.
  • The vehicle fuel consumption was automatically recorded when refilled and the MPG-calculated delivery mileage recorded.
  • The project team constantly monitored the depot and its vehicles for environmental impact improvements and its fleet was fitted with night heaters, negating the need for vehicles to be left idling.
  • The Don’t Walk By (DWB) safety campaign is CPS’s campaign for reporting safety issues. Reports can be submitted via cards (widely available across all locations), via the intranet portal or email. The team was also redeveloping an app following a recent trial. Every member of staff was encouraged to report at least one DWB a month. Feedback, suggestions and comments were reviewed weekly.
  • Random drug and alcohol testing is contractor policy, with four members of depot staff trained to carry out this function. Testing is actioned at induction and randomly carried out across the business. 
  • CPS’s senior management, from Managing Director level down, regularly meet with staff across the network face-to-face; this includes safety tours, monthly briefings and bi-annual roadshows.
  • Blunts Farm’s depot manager Melissa Wise was spearheading an improvement project that will build better relationships and communication across the depot, resulting in improvements in areas of staff, leadership, policy, planning & procedure and depot.
  • The leisure society is a fledgling society that is gathering initiative. Driven by staff, with support from the business, events to date include golf, charitable fundraising, cycling and bowling, with dates set in the forward calendar for 2016.
  • The company has its own training centre, is VRS accredited and conducts regular development reviews for the workforce.
  • Annual health checks and screenings are provided to the workforce, with intermittent wellbeing inspections.
  • The company conducts extensive graduate trainee and apprenticeship programmes.
  • Extra awards are provided on a monthly basis to members of staff and the team. A £500 bonus was presented to the depot team who attended a serious incident, raised the alarm and attended victims.
  • Annual reviews and individual career paths are actioned to promote staff internally.

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