Author Archives: Howard Robinson

CYCLISTS’ ACCIDENTS UNDERLINE NEED FOR NATIONAL POTHOLE DEFINITION

The rise in number of cyclists being injured by accidents caused by deteriorating road surfaces underlines calls for a national statutory standard definition of what comprises a pothole.

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has warned that without such a standard, cash-strapped local authorities may move the goal posts in order to save money by not repairing smaller potholes.

New figures from the Department for Transport show that almost 100 cyclists a year are involved in incidents in which “poor or defective” roads were a factor. Lawyers acting on behalf of accident victims report that many councils only fixed potholes that were deeper than 4cm, despite the risk of accidents resulting from shallower defects. North Yorkshire county council recently rejected a cyclist’s compensation claim following a pothole-related accident after producing documents showing that the road was inspected a week before and that “no defects” were found. Lawyers acting for the claimant reported that because the pothole was only 3cm deep the council’s response was that it “did not consider that the defect which caused your accident is dangerous”.

Although there is widespread adoption of the ‘Well-Managed Highway Infrastructure Code of Practice’ (previously called Well Maintained Highways) this only offers guidance as to best practice. It does not provide a national definition of potholes. As a result there are differing approaches throughout the UK. In Gloucestershire, a road surface defect becomes a pothole if it is 4cm deep and 30cm wide. Neighbouring Worcestershire has the same depth criteria of 40mm but a smaller dimension of 20cm. In Bath, a smaller depth of 3cm is accepted as being a pothole. However, in Hounslow, London, a pothole will only be repaired urgently if it reaches a depth of 7.5cm. In Warwickshire, a pothole of up to 5cm deep is not considered to be hazardous and will only be repaired as part of routine maintenance six months after being reported. By contrast, Herefordshire County Council “aims to record and treat all potholes regardless of depth”.

“The lack of a national pothole definition means that we have a postcode lottery of road repair as different local authorities take different approaches. There is no consistency,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Local highway authorities are under immense financial pressure. However, under the Road Traffic Act 1980 they have a duty of care to properly maintain their road network but there is no national definition or agreement as to when a pothole is a pothole.”

He continued: “The government must recognise its responsibility to provide the necessary levels of funding to enable local authorities to fulfill their responsibilities to provide a safe and well-maintained road network”.

WINTER GRITTERS REPAIR SUMMER’S MELTING ROADS

The current heatwave means that local highway authorities have one eye on the thermometer and the other one on their road surfaces as the current high temperatures are causing some to melt.  With temperatures topping 30C, the bitumen in some road surfaces may soften and rise to the top. This makes the road surface sticky and more susceptible to pressure loads from heavy vehicles resulting in surface ridging and rutting.

Most roads will not begin to soften until they hit a temperature of around 50C. However, even a sunny day in the 20Cs can be enough to generate 50C on the ground as the dark asphalt road surface absorbs a lot of heat and this builds up during the day. The response for local highway authorities is to send out the gritters to spread granite dust or sand to absorb the soft bitumen and so stabilise the road surface and make it less sticky.

“Drivers may be bemused to see the gritters out in the summer when they are usually spreading grit and salt during the winter”, said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association. “However, this is effective standard practice for keeping a road surface safe during extreme hot temperatures.”

He continued: “Asphalt is like chocolate – it melts and softens when it’s hot, and goes hard and brittle when it’s cold – it doesn’t maintain the same strength all year round.”

Following a heatwave in 1995, the road industry introduced a new asphalt specification introducing the use of polymer modified binders in hot rolled asphalt (HRA). These polymers raise the asphalt road surface softening point to around 80C which prevents it from softening under extreme hot weather. Other asphalt products such as thin surface course systems also normally contain polymer modified binders. Modified asphalts tend to be more expensive and are generally only used on heavily-trafficked roads. Robinson estimates that less than 5% of all the UK’s road surfaces contain polymer modified asphalt.  Surface dressings which are used to seal road surfaces and restore skid resistance also now predominantly contain polymer modified binders which will resist softening during periods of hot weather.

“Melting of some roads is not surprising during this heatwave but they can be quickly treated and revert back to normal once temperatures decline,” said Robinson.

HOWARD COOKE APPOINTED RSTA CHAIRMAN

Howard Cooke, Managing Director of Asphalt Reinforcement Services Ltd, has been appointed as Chairman of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

Howard has been working in the highway maintenance industry for 30 years. He started his career with Colas and Associated Asphalt before starting his own business 15 years ago with Asphalt Reinforcement Services Ltd. The business has developed as a successful SME and was one of the first to gain QCF NVQ qualifications for the installation of geosynthetics and steel meshes through the RSTA Assessment Centre and now has CE mark accreditation for All-In Surface Dressing. Howard has a close association with the RSTA having chaired the geosynthetics and steel meshes sector for five years during which time the geosynthetics and steel meshes Code of Practice was endorsed by ADEPT and brought to market.

Of his appointment, Howard said: “It is a great privilege to be taking on the role of Chairman of the RSTA. I look forward to working with the RSTA team and member companies in advancing the road maintenance industry.”

In particular, Howard set out two main objectives: “I would like to encourage more local authority and design companies to participate with the RSTA. With the demise of the intelligent client, it is becoming increasingly important to collaborate with client bodies. It is also important for the RSTA to reinforce the message to Government for properly maintained roads. With our membership we have a collective industry voice that can make progress in bidding for improved highway maintenance funding.”

Howard Cooke 1

NEW ROAD INDUSTRY CODE OF PRACTICE FOR GROUTED MACADAM SURFACING

A new industry Code of Practice for Grouted Macadam Surfacing has been published by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). It forwards industry best practice and has been peer reviewed and endorsed by ADEPT, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport.

Grouted Macadam surfacing is used to re-profile and strengthen the road surface – thereby providing improved texture, skid resistance and prevention of water ingress.  It offers an alternative to standard asphalt and macadam surface courses.

There are two main types of Grouted Macadam surfacing – those grouted with an asphaltic grout and those with a cementitious grout.  Both provide impervious finishes with an extended service life.

Asphaltic Grouted Macadam consists of a hot, paver laid, open-graded asphalt, purposefully designed receiving course, laid to a depth of between 30mm and 50mm, which is then sealed with an asphaltic grout.  It provides an impervious surface course, combatting water ingress with the flexibility to withstand underlying movement.  The sealing of the surface course also prevents fretting, reduces the speed of binder oxidation and reinforces the strength and elastic stiffness of the surface course.  The material is ideally suited to the resurfacing of flexible or concrete rural and residential highways.

Cementitious Grouted Macadam consists of a hot, paver laid, open-graded asphaltic, purposefully designed receiving course, typically laid to a nominal depth of between 35mm and 50mm with a controlled void content which is subsequently filled with a resin cementitious grout.  This provides a hybrid between asphalt and concrete with fast installation, minimal downtime and a resulting stiffness that falls between concrete and conventional bituminous surfacing materials. It has a high heat resistance and is therefore less temperature susceptible than traditional bituminous materials. A flexible, jointless, heavy-duty surface course, it is capable of withstanding intense traffic loadings and fuel / leachate contamination to minimise rutting or deformation. This material is ideally suited to the surfacing of high-stress areas.

The new code underlines the need for careful consideration of a wide range of details, to plan and design the work carefully and to use only HAPAS (or equivalent) approved installers certificated to BS EN ISO 9001:2008 / 9001:2015 and National Highways Sector Scheme 16.  As there is no British Standard design criteria for Grouted Macadams it is important for the client to satisfy himself that the contractor has sufficient knowledge and experience, that the product is suitably established and has been adequately tested and approved to perform as expected, and that it has demonstrated the durability required to meet the necessary service life.

The health and safety, environment, training and quality assurance responsibilities of client and contractor are set out by the code. It also provides guidance on site planning, programming, co-ordination and traffic management.  A useful inclusion is the pre-contract, on-site and post-contract check-lists.

Copies of the Code of Practice for Grouted Macadam Surfacing may be downloaded from the RSTA website: www.rsta-uk.org/publications

RSTA INDUSTRY CONFERENCE REPORT: THE NEW RULES

The theme of this year’s Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) industry conference was ‘The New Rules’. However, the conference also proved that the old problems resulting from the lack of investment in road maintenance are getting worse.

John Paterson, Atkins, opened the conference by highlighting how the rules concerning road maintenance were changing by outlining the new UK code of practice for highway authorities, ‘Well-managed highway infrastructure’, which has been published by the UK Roads Liaison Group (UKRLG). The new code supersedes three previous codes, ‘Well-maintained highways’, ‘Well-lit highways’ and ‘Management of highway structures’. These are now rationalized into one document.

The main change is the move away from the reliance on specific guidance and recommendations to a risk-based approach to be determined by each local authority following analysis of local needs, priorities and affordability. In addition, the code calls for a consistent approach based on collaboration between all authorities and alliances, both local and strategic. To back this up, authorities are encouraged to develop appropriate records and make a detailed inventory of highway assets. They are also encouraged to consider the adoption of new and emerging technologies in order to driver greater efficiency. Although not statutory, highway authorities are expected to have fully signed-up and implemented the new risk-based approach by October 2018.

And the benefits of this new approach? Paterson believes them to be strengthened and better asset management, increased efficiencies, improved accountability based on evidence, empowered highway authorities meeting local needs, and importantly, support for making the case for funding.

The need for rationalization is also behind the review and updating of the ‘Design Manual for Roads and Bridges’. First published in 1992 the manual comprises over 300 documents, over half of which are additional advice notes.

Arash Khojinian of Highways England explained that the revision of the manual will forward the drivers of safety, efficiency, environmental input and affordability – both initial and whole life cost. Importantly, the new manual will encourage innovation as it will move away from prescriptive to performance-based standards. The manual will continue to set out the requirements for the UK motorway and all-purpose trunk road network only.

Khojinian underlined the importance of this review as part of the undertaking for when in 2015 the Highways Agency became Highways England, a government-owned company. This called for the review of DMRB “to reduce the number of prescriptive standards and increase the number of performance standards, in line with industry best practice, and thereby reduce the number of departures from standards.” Importantly, the new DMRB will place responsibility for design justification with the supply chain designer. It will provide advice to support professional decision making. Above all, the new DMRB will enable Highways England to meet the challenges of balancing priorities against demands, innovation versus risk and ensuring collaboration for mutual benefit.

The timescale is tight as the manual is due to be updated by March 2020 and this includes one year when the draft will be submitted to Europe for approval.

Owen Jenkins, Oxfordshire County Council, gave the local authority response to the new rules against a background of considerable financial pressure. Increasingly, local authorities are having to balance funding the needs of the vulnerable against providing the essentials versus financing the ‘nice to haves’. The funding of social care and refuse collection means less investment in road maintenance as unfortunately rising social care costs means that a road surface in good condition is seen as a ‘nice to have’. To illustrate his point, Jenkins reported that local authority spend as a percentage of national GDP is at its lowest since 1948.

Oxfordshire has addressed the financial pressures by making cost savings of £300 million with a further £77 million to come. The County Council is concentrating on delivering simpler and better services that are more local at lower cost. Jenkins hopes that Oxfordshire, by being part of the England’s Economic Heartland initiative, will attract growth in council and business tax via a growth in new homes and businesses.

He welcomed the new guidance provided by the new ‘Well-managed highways infrastructure’, as being built on the principles that many authorities have already adopted and for providing the case for a well-managed resilient network against one that is just well-maintained. However, he warned that the new code by being rationalized and simpler should not result in any dumbing down of asset management approach. Nor should it be used as a tool for further budget cuts.

The new rules set out in the new code of practice and the new DMRB have been developed against a background of continued under investment in roads, particularly in local road maintenance. Howard Robinson of RSTA provided a range of startling statistics, many of which are the government’s own, that demonstrated the old problems of increasing traffic demands and deteriorating roads are getting worse not better.

He pointed out that despite local roads representing 98% of the total road network and carrying 67% of the country’s traffic, they receive far less investment than the strategic road network (SRN). The Local Government Association estimates that £1.1 million per mile is invested maintaining the strategic road network. This figure drops to only £27,000 per mile for the local road network. Highways England has a 5 year plan with targets for customer satisfaction and network performance. There is no such plan for highway authorities who instead face ongoing cuts in budgets, have to jump through the hoops of complex funding arrangements and have a far greater backlog of repairs to address due to decades of under-investment. Latest figures from the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s ALARM Survey put the pothole repair bill at over £12.06 billion with one in six local roads being in such a poor state that they may have to be replaced within the next five years. With the Department for Transport predicting a 12% increase in traffic by 2025 and a 43% increase by 2047 things can only get worse.

Robinson stated that road investment is now reaching a critical stage for the local road network. The government’s recognition that poorly maintained roads have negative social and economic impacts needs to be matched by a real long-term increase in funding. He called for the investment of an additional 2p per litre of the existing fuel duty to fix the plague of potholes. This would provide an additional annual £1 billion. Robinson welcomed the focus on asset management, the benefits of a risk-based approach and the need to make smarter decisions to get better value and to increase efficiencies. These drivers are the way forward. However, smart decisions and improved efficiencies can only go so far. Without significant increase in funding the new rules will be stymied by the old problem of lack of investment.

NEW SURVEY FINDS LOCAL ROAD CONDITION GOING FROM BAD TO WORSE

The 2017 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey makes for grim reading. It reports that decades of investment in road maintenance combined with an aging road network and increased traffic levels means that within the next five years one in six of local roads will need significant repair or may even face closure due to their poor condition.

Produced by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) and based on data supplied by 63 per cent of local authorities responsible for roads in England and Wales, the survey provides a definitive overview of the poor state of the local road network. It reports that the cost to restore the local road network to a satisfactory condition would cost over £12.06 billion and that it would take 13 years to address the backlog of potholes in England and nine years in Wales.

Over the last year local highway authorities repaired 1.7 million potholes – one every 19 seconds –  however,  they are playing a never-ending catch-up game that is exacerbated by ongoing budget cuts.

“It is not just about the provision of a realistic level of investment in what is our most important infrastructure asset. But for that funding to have long-term assurance so that highway authorities can carry out cost planned, cost efficient programmes of maintenance and not expensive emergency repairs,” explained Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “Cost-effective maintenance that prevents potholes from forming in the first place surely is the logical financial approach”.

He continued: “Without a significant increase in road maintenance investment the condition of our roads will go from bad to worse. The survey’s finding that a sixth of local roads could be unusable within five years is of considerable concern.”

POTHOLE CAR DAMAGE DOUBLES OVER TEN YEARS

A new survey from the RAC has found that the number of cars damaged by potholes has more than doubled over the last ten years. This, believes the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA), is proof that the government is failing to provide the levels of investment necessary to bring the local road network up to an adequate standard.

The survey found that 21,500 cars rescued by the RAC over the last 12 months had suffered damage where the main contributory factor was potholes. This is a 126 per cent increase over the numbers of cars rescued in 2006. The damage includes broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers. Reporting on the survey, David Bizley, RAC chief engineer said: “Our analysis paints a very disappointing picture which unequivocally confirms what most road users already know, which is that the condition of our local roads has deteriorated drastically in the last decade.”

Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive said: “The doubling in the number of cars damaged by potholes is proof that the decades of under-investment in our local road network is not being addressed. There is a £12 billion backlog of potholes repairs but the funding for local road maintenance is £6 billion for all of 2015- 2021. This and the occasional ad hoc funding boost, such as the recent government’s trumpeted additional £250 million, is simply not enough to address our deteriorating local road network.

Cash-strapped local authorities are doing the best that they can but faced with ever-dwindling resources it is often one step forward and two-steps back.”

NATIONAL DEFINITION OF POTHOLE CALLED FOR

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called for a national statutory standard definition of what comprises a pothole. It warns that without such a standard, cash-strapped local authorities may move the goal posts in order to try to save money by not repairing smaller potholes.

RSTA’s warning follows the decision taken earlier this year by Perth and Kinross Council to redefine its classification of a pothole. The Council has declared that potholes must now be 60mm deep – an increase of 50 percent from its previous 40mm classification – before they are repaired and filled.

“Local authorities are under immense financial pressure. However, they have a duty of care to ensure that roads are properly maintained. This, they recognise and they work hard to meet that obligation but the ongoing cutbacks in local authority budgets means that that they may move the road maintenance goal posts in order to save money,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

Although there is widespread adoption of the ‘Well-Maintained Highways Code of Practice’ this only offers guidance as to best practice. It does not provide a national definition of potholes. As a result there are differing approaches throughout the UK. In Gloucestershire, a road surface defect becomes a pothole if it is 4cm deep and 30cm wide. Neighbouring Worcestershire has the same depth criteria of 40mm but a smaller dimension of 20cm. In Bath, a smaller depth of 3cm is accepted as being a pothole. However, in Hounslow, London, a pothole will only be repaired urgently if it reaches 7.5cm. In Warwickshire, a pothole of up to 5cm is not considered to be hazardous and will only be repaired as part of routine maintenance six months after being reported. Potholes up to 10cm will take up to 28 days to be repaired. However, in Trafford a pothole warrants repair at 4cm in depth. By contrast, Herefordshire County Council “aims to record and treat all potholes regardless of depth”.

“The lack of a national pothole definition means that we have a postcode lottery of road repair as different local authorities take different approaches. There is no consistency,” said Robinson. “Under the Road Traffic Act 1980 all local highway authorities have a duty of care to maintain their road network but there is no national definition or agreement as to when a pothole is a pothole.”

He continued: “A national definition of at what depth and width a defect is recognised as being a pothole would enable a consistent road maintenance risk assessment, intervention and repair approach.”

ROAD NETWORK NEEDS GREATER INVESTMENT TO COPE WITH PREDICTED RISE IN CAR JOURNEYS

New government transport forecasts from the Department for Transport underlined the essential need for a well maintained road network as more and more journeys are predicted to be made by car rather than by bus or rail.

The DfT forecasts of journeys and modes of transport between 2015 and 2040 predicted bus journeys to decline by 24 per cent and rail journeys to fall by 1 per cent. The number of journeys taken by car is predicted to increase by 11 per cent.  It is thought that a decline in the cost of driving combined with rises in bus and rail fares are resulting in people using the car as an alternative to public transport despite increasing levels of road congestion and expensive upgrades of the rail network.

The DfT forecasts were in response to a parliamentary question for an estimate of the number and type of trips from 2015 to 2040.

“The fact is that journeys by car remain the most popular and most convenient way to travel. This underlines the need for real and meaningful investment in the maintenance of the road network,” said Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

Robinson pointed that out that there is a £12 billion backlog of pothole repairs and queried whether the £6 billion funding for local road maintenance between 2015 – 2021  is adequate as over the same six year period motorists will have paid, at current taxation levels, £237.144 billion in fuel tax, fuel VAT, Vehicle Excise Duty and motorist Insurance Premium Tax.

Robinson continued: “The forecasts of increased car use demonstrate the importance of a well-maintained road network. Unfortunately, the government is unable to recognise this simple fact and provide the required levels of investment despite the very significant disparity between what it receives in motorist taxation and what is spent on road maintenance.”

RECORD LEVELS OF TRAFFIC ARE TRAVELLING ON A POORLY FUNDED ROAD NETWORK

New Department for Transport statistics that show traffic levels are higher than ever demand action from the Government and questions from motorists believes the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “The Government must act to properly address the £12 billion local road repair backlog if the country is not to grind to a potholed stop. Motorists must ask why the increased motoring and fuel tax revenues from traffic is not being spent on maintaining the road network”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive.

According to Road Traffic Estimates: Great Britain 2015, the number of vehicle miles travelled grew by 1.1 per cent in 2015 to 247 billion. This is higher than the previous peak in 2007. Motorway use has increased by 2.6 per cent more than in 2014, the use of rural ‘A’ roads increased by 2.4 per cent and traffic using rural roads grew by 2 per cent. “The parlous state of our potholed crumbling road network is a result of decades of under-investment. The increasing traffic levels will add to the pressure on a road network that is, quite frankly, barely able to cope”, said Robinson.

HMRC figures show that the Government collected £26.7 billion from the 46.2 billion litres of fuel sold in 2015. In addition, VAT on fuel raised £6.3 billion, Vehicle Excise Duty raised £5.9 billion and motorist Insurance Premium Tax a further £624,000 million. In total motoring taxes accounted for over £39.524 billion last year. “Against this, the Government is committed to just £6 billion to fund local road maintenance between 2015 and 2021. Over the same six year period, at current taxation levels, the Government will rake in £237.144 billion. Motorists need to ask where the money is going. It certainly is not going on local road maintenance”, said Robinson.

He continued: “The condition of our road network, in particular the local road network, continues to be a major concern. The Government’s own statistics underline the pressure that they are facing. They also show the amount of taxation that motorists pay and how little of that is actually invested back into the roads that they drive on.”