top of page

Cutting carbon: let’s get it right first time

Guest blog by Steve Knott, business director for Amey’s strategic highways division

Today, it is almost impossible to imagine a time when injuries and deaths were less consciously considered in construction. Yet, before the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act came into force in 1974, that was exactly how it was.

There has been a huge cultural shift from then to now. And I believe that we are on the cusp of another such shift.

The catalyst for this change is our need to tackle climate change, a will to lower the carbon emissions associated with our activities on our road to net zero. But there is a big caveat here. Unless infrastructure owners, and the companies who serve them, are focussed on whole life carbon, we are at risk of moving in the wrong direction.

Just because a material or product has lower embodied carbon up to the point it is installed, does not mean it will lead to the lowest embodied carbon over a road’s whole life. The first principle of a circular economy is that resources should be kept in use for as long as possible.

Take pothole repair as an example. One system may have less embodied carbon than another up to the point at which the repair is made, but if that repair only lasts for half the time of the other method, there will be carbon gains not carbon savings. We need to be looking at whole life carbon, hand-in-hand with whole life cost, if we really want to make the necessary progress.

As National Highway’s number one contractor in terms of road length, with contracts in areas 7, 10 and 12 and a specialist inspection and maintenance contract for the Severn Bridges and Avonmouth, Amey is working hard to develop ‘right first time’, carbon considered repair regimes. Thermal Road Repairs’ technology is part of that. We used it for the first time on the strategic network in 2021 to fix a pothole on the M1 that kept opening up. It worked – and the bonus is that it is lower carbon than other repair methods.

Our aspiration is to get to the point where all immediate and urgent pothole repairs can be done just once and done right so that there aren’t carbon-generating return visits. Apart from the benefits in carbon and cost, this reduces disruption to road users and lowers the amount of time our workers are exposed to potential safety risks on the road.

Of course, there are hurdles to clear before we get to that point. Can we find a way to reduce the cycle time for a right-first-time repair system and move away from temporary emergency repairs? Or could we justify delaying customers by a few more minutes in the pursuit of better whole life carbon outcomes and less overall disruption?

These are the sorts of questions we, as an industry, need to be discussing with our customers and our supply chains around the table, including SMEs like Thermal Road Repairs. When we are designing and delivering operational solutions, we must have whole life cost and whole life carbon at the front of our minds. This is part of Amey’s roadmap to net zero with a longer-term positive impact on our people, places and our planet.

It isn’t going to be easy to change mindsets and take the step change that our transition to a low carbon economy requires. But I believe that we have both the will and the ability to do it – just as we have with health and safety.


Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. It invests significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve existing ones.

Thermal Road Repairs: Decarbonising the asphalt repair industry.

High output. Low emission. Zero waste. Permanent solution.

171 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page