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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

A spotlight on James Smart, commissioning manager

How James Smart came to join SRL is pure coincidence.

He was repairing devices in a computer store when Peter Almond, MD of SRL’s manufacturing division, visited to have his phone fixed. James and Peter got to know each other and, when an opportunity arose within SRL for a technical person to join SRL and repair equipment, Peter immediately invited James for an interview. The rest, as they say, is history.

James put his tech skills to good use and spent three years repairing SRL’s equipment and components before being approached by John Cleary, managing director of SRL’s Urban64 division, to help him launch our Urban64 product. Excited by the potential of the new product, James was delighted to accept the challenges on offer and went to work with John.

In 2015, James helped to commission the very first live Urban64 site in Portsmouth. James spent two months in the city learning about how the system performed and ironing out any early teething problems.

“It was really exciting to be there at the beginning of the Urban64 journey and the product has come a long way since Portsmouth,” says James. “A lot of refinements and optimisations were developed based on our experiences there and Urban64 has now been installed on over 300 sites, which is a terrific achievement.”

The first and only permanent system to be designed specifically for temporary installations, Urban64 certainly is a revolutionary product. It allows for rapid overhead installation, with the ability to replicate the preceding permanent system to help maintain an efficient flow of traffic.

James travelled the country with John, meeting with clients, preparing CAD drawings and planning UTMC installations. He also attended customer callouts and was responsible for fixing any issues with the system. “There was a lot of travelling, but I really enjoyed helping our customers and creating a demand for the product,” he says.

Smart by name, smart by nature

James moved into his role as commissioning manager a few years ago. “I began to learn more about UTC connectivity and how to establish different protocols, linking the system to individual local authorities’ networks and infrastructures.”

He built relationships with a number of organisations, including Transport for London, Liverpool City Council, Bristol City Council, Leicester City Council and Southampton City Council, which all successfully trialled the new portable UTMC system. It is now used extensively in Liverpool and London to keep traffic moving safely and smoothly within the cities.

James heads up a team of three and recently opened our Urban64 test and inspection hub in Coventry. “It’s the place where we upgrade and repair our equipment. Although very new, the hub has already helped us to improve installation times and reduce failure ratings on site,” adds James.

James has a genuine passion for his customers and is very responsive to their needs, always working to ensure that equipment is safe and legally compliant – no matter what time of day or night.

“I had a call recently at 2am from a client about the Testo’s junction in the north east. The Urban 64 kit was not performing properly and the timings were slightly out. We were keen to resolve the problem before the rush hour started, so I called an engineer who arrived on site within two hours. It turned out that some traffic management equipment had been moved and it just needed a minor adjustment to get the system up and running normally again. The issue was solved within a two and a half hour window and the client was delighted.”

From Hull to Kent – and everywhere in between

There have been several highlights for James during his time at SRL. As well as successfully introducing the first Urban64 installation with MOVA traffic control on the A63 in Hull, he was part of the team that planned ‘Operation Brock’ – a complex scheme that was designed to reduce any traffic management and logistics challenges resulting from the cross-channel traffic hiatus in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Central to the operation was an SRL Urban64 system that would be mobilised onto the M26 in Kent to manage the flow of HGVs heading to the port of Dover.

“This was a major project for me,” says James. “We planned to locate five Urban64 installations within the motorway network to help manage the safe holding and movements of over 2,500 HGVs in the event of a ‘no deal’ decision on Brexit. I trained the staff of A-one+ on how to remotely operate the traffic lights, and, although the system wasn’t ultimately activated, it was an amazing feat of planning and engineering.”

James is also proud to have been accepted into the Institute of Highway Engineers – he is the first and only member of the SRL team to achieve this.

With so many successful projects under his belt, James is a very valued member of the SRL team and he has set his sights high for SRL. “I want to see SRL continuing to break new ground and for the business to always be at the forefront of innovation and development, especially in the emerging C-V2X technology. With the expertise and commitment of a fantastic team, I see absolutely no reason why this won’t happen.”

It’s a terrific ambition to come out of an encounter in a computer repair shop!

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