Category Archives: Highway Maintenance

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.”

CHANCELLOR FOLLOWS ROAD MAINTENANCE FAILURE OF HIS PREDECESSORS

“In his Spring Budget Philip Hammond, has failed to address the decades of under-investment in road maintenance,” said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “His budget has no recognition that a well- maintained and efficient local road network supports the national economy. Instead we have a local road network that is increasingly Third World.”

RSTA has renewed its support of the calls by the Local Government Association to address the decades of under-investment in the local road network by injecting a further £1 billion a year into roads maintenance. The additional funding could be found by investing just 2p per litre of the existing fuel duty without any need to increase fuel duty rates.

The Chancellor announced £690m funding competition for local authorities to tackle congestion and to get local transport networks moving. “Some highway authorities have seen a 50% reduction in their road maintenance budgets. It is a pity that they will have to spend precious resources on competing for funding,” said Robinson.

Although the Department for Transport did announce in January 2017 funding of £1.2 billion for English local roads for the period 2017-18. That does not address the staggering £12 billion necessary to address the current backlog of repairs and potholes and bring the road network up to an acceptable standard.

The £1.2 billion funding includes £210 million from the National Productivity Investment Fund as announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement, £801 million Local Highways Maintenance Funding – Needs Element, £70 million from the Pothole Action fund, £75 million from the Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund where local highway authorities have to compete for funding and a further £75 million from the Highways Maintenance Incentive Element which requires completion of a self-assessment questionnaire ‘in order to reward those who demonstrate they truly understand the value of their asset’.

“It is disappointing that the Chancellor fails to appreciate the social and economic benefits of a well-maintained local road network,” said Robinson. “We note that that from 1 April 2017 vehicle excise duty rates for cars, vans and motorcycles registered before April 2017 will increase by Retail Prices Index (RPI) while VED for HGVs and the Road User Levy rates will be frozen. We call upon the Chancellor to consider channelling the funds from the VED rate increase towards road maintenance.”

AUTUMN STATEMENT FAILS LOCAL ROAD NETWORKS – Response from the Road Surface Treatments Association

Chancellor Philip Hammond has failed to address the fundamental issue facing the UK’s transport infrastructure – there is little point in making significant investments in headline projects if the roads that connect them are potholed and crumbling away.

“Unfortunately, the Chancellor has today has shown the same lack of understanding as his predecessors. The £1.1 billion announced in today’s Autumn Statement for local transport networks will do little to address the decades of underinvestment in load road maintenance which has resulted in a £12 billion backlog of pothole repairs”, said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Roads Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

He continued: “The Chancellor makes much of the need to invest in infrastructure to prove that Britain is open for business. Yet over 90 per cent of our traffic is carried by a local road network that is simply not up to scratch. He has failed to understand that the local road network is the essential link to headline projects such as the Cambridge to Oxford expressway.

Investment in infrastructure may be summed up by the idiom ‘learn to walk before you run’. Invest in fundamental and essential road maintenance before you announce grand projects. Or do both.”

INCREASED TRAFFIC DEMONSTRATES THE NEED FOR WELL MAINTAINED ROADS

New traffic level estimated from the Department for Transport (DfT) underlined the need for greater investment to improve the condition of the UK’s road network.

Provisional road traffic estimates for Great Britain for the year ending September 2016 show that traffic levels rose by 1.4% to a new record level that is 1.8% higher than the previous peak in September 2007. It total, there were 320 billion vehicles miles travelled on the road network between September 2015 and September 2016.

“Decades of under investment in road maintenance means that our network, in particular the local road network, is unable to cope with the amount of traffic that uses it. This is confirmed by the unacceptable high levels of deterioration and potholes”, said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “Over £12 billion is necessary to bring the condition of the local road network up to an acceptable standard. The ongoing severe budgetary pressures on local authorities means that they unable to commit to the necessary investment for programmes of long-term road maintenance.”

He continued: “These traffic figures should be a wake-up call for the Chancellor. His forthcoming Autumn Statement should include real funding investment in road maintenance to ensure that the network is in a fit state to cope with the increased traffic pressures”.

ROADS INDUSTRY WELCOMES MAJOR ROAD NETWORK PROPOSALS

“At last a joined-up approach to our road network”, was the response from the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) welcoming the publication of the Rees Jeffrey’s Report “A Major Road Network for England”.

The report calls for the recognition of an 8,000 mile Major Road Network (MRN) that includes the 4,200 miles of the Strategic Road Network (SRN) of motorways and trunk roads run by Highways England and a further 3,800 miles of strategic local authority controlled A roads. Together they represent 4 per cent of England’s roads that carry 43 per cent of its traffic.

Given the strategic importance of the MRN, the report believes that there should be equal recognition between the SRN and local authority A roads. Both should have the same planning and funding certainty. Currently, the government has committed a £15 billion five year plan of investment in the SRN. Local authorities who are responsible for 98% of England’s roads have no such certainty. They have had to cut road maintenance as part of the government’s austerity programme and face complex capital funding arrangements without any certainty of five-year commitments. The result is a £12 billion back log of potholes and essential repairs.

“Central government seems to be unable to understand that the local road network is the essential link to the strategic road network. The establishment of a properly programmed and funded major road network is the joined up approach that our road network needs”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

Robinson welcomed the calls for funding from the National Road Fund to be made available for both strategic roads and local roads and for greater collaboration between Highways England and local authorities via initiatives such as sub-national transport bodies.

“A well-maintained national and regional road network that has a committed programme of investment is essential for the country’s economic and social well-being. The report from Rees Jeffrey’s offers a cohesive alternative to the mismatched funding between the SRN and strategically important A roads”, said Robinson.

AUTUMN STATEMENT SHOULD MAKE THE CASE FOR LOCAL ROAD MAINTENANCE

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called upon the new Chancellor, Philip Hammond, to use his forthcoming Autumn Statement to demonstrate something that his predecessors have failed to do: an understanding that good local road maintenance is essential for the social-economic wellbeing of the country.

The failure to appreciate the true socio-economic worth of a well-maintained road network is underlined by the decades of under investment that has left a legacy of £12 billion worth of potholed roads in need of investment. Central government seems to be unable to understand that the local road network is the essential link to the national road network, rail stations, ports and airports. It is also the main means of access to people’s homes, to schools, hospitals and businesses.

Hammond should start by using his Autumn Statement to correct the anomaly that local roads will not receive any monies from the new vehicle excise duty road fund announced by the previous Chancellor, George Osborne.

The new fund, to be introduced in 2017, is only for trunk roads and motorways. It will not be available for local roads despite their representing 98% of the UK road network.

“Decades of under-investment that has left our local roads in a continuing state of decline,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive. “The Chancellor should demonstrate that he understands the importance of the local road network and announce that the road fund should be used to invest in both the national and local road network.”

The Government is committed to providing £6 billion from 2015 to 2021 for local road maintenance however over the same period drivers in England will provide over £30 billion in vehicle excise duty. “The huge discrepancy between what motorists pay in tax and what is spent on maintaining the roads that they pay tax to drive on should be addressed,” said Robinson.

Cash strapped local highway authorities are doing what they can and over the last year they have filled in over 2 million potholes. However, the lack of assured real long-term funding means that much of this is expensive reactive repair rather than cost-effective preventative maintenance that would have prevented the potholes from forming in the first place. This has long been the logical economic argument forwarded by the road maintenance industry. It costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs an average £57m2 to repair one pothole.

“The case for funding a well-maintained road network is strong. The Chancellor should use his Autumn Statement to make that case,” said Robinson. “If the Chancellor wants a positive economic legacy then he should provide real levels of investment in local roads and work with local authorities to develop long-term funding mechanisms that enable the implementation of programmes of planned maintenance.”

NEW REGULATIONS FOR HARD HATS COMES IN FORCE IN JANUARY 2017

Highways England will switch its construction and maintenance contractors over to a new industry recognised colour-coded hard hat scheme from the start of 2017.

Four colours of hard hat will reflect workers roles and level of responsibility on site in a bid to make sites safer.

The new standard, which will see operatives wearing white hard hats and supervisors black, was launched by industry trade body BuildUK four months ago.

It also ends the reign of green and yellow hard hats on the country’s highways.

Highways England is adopting the scheme as part of its ‘Raising the bar’ health and safety initiative to identify best practice, raise standards and improve supply chain engagement.

A spokesman for Highways England said that the system would foster pride in the wearing of a specific hat colour as a badge of responsibility.

It would also reduce costs as companies will no longer have to buy different coloured helmets for different jobs.

On small sites where  a colour standard may be impractical Highways England is advising using a default colour of white as is general current practice.