‘The Cones’ bring Highways Safety and the Automated Cone Laying Machine to life for Children on World Book Day

Date: 07 March 2024


Leading highways industry players Balfour Beatty, Connect Plus, Connect Plus Services and Highway Care have helped to create a compelling narrative of road safety and innovation with the World Book Day launch of ‘The Cones and The Cone Laying Machine’; a children’s storybook by Chris Madeley.


The four companies have worked in collaboration with The Cone Book team to create the 20th book in the Cone Book series; a fun and educational initiative that helps children learn about safety and the construction industry with captivating stories. Illustrated by Emily Vaughan, the story features a collection of cone characters and is based on the Falcon automated cone laying machine (ACLM); a first-of-its-kind machine developed by Highway Care and deployed by Connect Plus and Connect Plus Services as part of their operation and maintenance of the M25 network.


The decision to launch the book on World Book Day, March 7, was driven by a passion shared by all four companies to make the book accessible to as many young readers as possible by donating the book to children in schools. According to a World Book Day study, for 28 per cent of 8 to 11 year-olds who receive free school meals, the book 'bought' with a World Book Day token is the first they own.  And, in 2017, the National Literacy Trust found that one in 9.4 per cent of children and young people did not have a book of their own at home, a statistic that rose to 13.1 percent amongst children from disadvantaged backgrounds.


For this year’s World Book Day, ‘The Cones and The Cone Laying Machine’ was a treat for its first young readers at five primary schools across the UK, located in areas close to the four stakeholder organisations’ operations. Representatives from each company visited pupils to read the books with them, hand out free copies and deliver engaging talks about the machines featured in the book.


Andy Dean, CEO of Connect Plus, explained: “Encouraging the next generation of road users and potential road workers to understand the need for safety and innovation in road maintenance is an important goal for all parties involved. We are delighted that the ACLM is the inspiration for the latest Cone Book, and that we have been able to engage so many children with the story, and hand out free copies to several local schools.”


The Cones and The Cone Laying Machine’ breaks new ground in children's literature, combining storytelling with safety education to highlight the power of innovation to make roadworks safer. With a commitment to inclusivity, the book transcends cultural, racial, and religious boundaries, delivering a unique narrative designed to spark curiosity in young minds.


Geri Straine, Sustainability Director of Balfour Beatty’s Transport, Energy, Power and Major Projects, said:

“For many years, we have actively sought to engage the future generation of engineers and construction professionals. The launch of the ‘The Cones and The Cone Laying Machine’ storybook is another great example of how we can engage and inspire school children in both an educational and entertaining way about the importance of road safety, and excite them about the opportunities available in the construction and infrastructure industry. As the book hits the virtual shelves, we celebrate not just a storybook but a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and commitment to education across the industry.”


An immersive journey into the world of road safety, ‘The Cones and The Cone Laying Machine’ features animated cone characters, whose adventures introduce primary school-aged children to the intricacies of innovation, automation, and engineering design. The cone characters learn all about the ACLM, as well as exploring the delights of engineering through the introduction of Spot the robot dog and drones.


At its core, ‘The Cones and The Cone Laying Machine’ aims to inspire young minds to consider careers in the highways sector,” adds Hayley Terrell, Head of Communications and Marketing at Highway Care. “By presenting animated cones navigating real-world challenges, the book seeks to instil a sense of innovation and out-of-the-box thinking in the next generation and we’re certain it will not only engage them in the story but will also spark their curiosity as they spot road works while travelling.”


For those eager to support the initiative, ‘The Cones and The Cone Laying Machine’ will be available for purchase on major online platforms, including Amazon, and corporate buyers seeking bulk rates are encouraged to connect directly with The Cone Books. Notably, the book will not be available in digital format, emphasising the goal of providing a tangible connection for children with reading and the book in their hands.


“As ‘The Cones and The Cone Laying Machine’ hits the shelves, we celebrate not just a book, but a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and commitment to education,” Dave Neal, Connect Plus Services’ Managing Director adds. “We hope teachers, parents, children and organisations involved in the highways sector will join us in making this release a success and inspiring the next generation of contributors to the highways industry.”


Notes to editors:

About Connect Plus and Connect Plus Services

  • 15 years ago, National Highways awarded Connect Plus the contract to operate and manage the M25 and its key arterial link roads.
  • Connect Plus is a consortium that includes Edge Orbital Holdings Ltd, Balfour Beatty and Egis UK - a unique partnership with a collective strength in highways and management
  • Connect Plus Services (CPS), is Connect Plus’ specialist and strategic supply chain partner responsible for operations and maintenance, bringing together the collective strength and expertise of its parent companies, Balfour Beatty, AtkinsRealis and Egis UK.
  • With a workforce of around 700 people, based at seven locations around the network, CPS carries out routine maintenance, and whole-life management of thousands of M25 assets. CPS manages the operation of the network 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including a severe weather season maintenance programme.
  • Over the past 10 years, collectively we’ve delivered over £1.4bn worth of road improvements and junction enhancements, and we’re continually exploring new and innovative ways to deliver safer, more reliable journeys for our customers. Together, we’re passionate about delivering the long-term needs of the M25 and improving the driving experience for all our customers.


For media enquiries and further information, please contact: Vanessa King, on 07481 614397 or