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The skid resistance levels of over quarter of the local road network is reported to be questionable and needs further investigation according to the latest figures from the Department for Transport. In London this rises to over half of all local roads.
According to the latest Department for Transport Road Conditions in England statistics, over the 3 years period 2016 to 2019, 28% of the local road network has questionable skid resistance levels. This is an increase of 2% over the period 2013 to 2016. The London Boroughs had the highest proportion of the road network requiring further investigation, at 53%. This has increased from 45% from the period 2013 -2016. The skidding resistance figures do not necessarily reflect actual safety levels on the roads but do indicate sites where further investigation is required.
“The increase in the number of roads requiring skid resistance is worrying,” said Mike Harper, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “Reduced skidding resistance can mean increase the chance of accidents especially at approaches to road junctions and traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and roundabouts as well as road stretches that have high accidents levels. Local authorities need to ensure that these potential accident black spots are made as safe as possible by ensuring that they are investigated, properly surfaced and maintained”.
The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) is calling for greater use of high friction surfacing (HFS) and other surface treatments to improve skid resistance. Furthermore, the Association warns that deterioration in skid resistance could be an early indicator that the road as a whole needs intervention.
There are a number of cost-effective road surface techniques that can be used including surface dressing, retexturing or high friction surfacing. Surface dressing not only restores skid resistance but also protects the road surface against water ingress and pothole formation. Retexturing can improve skid resistance with minimal disruption to the road user as it can be carried out at high speed at any time of year.
Harper pointed out that: “Highway budgets have been under immense pressure over the last few years. However, in most cases skid resistance can be restored without major resurfacing works. For roads in good condition, retexturing can restore both the macro and micro texture. Surface dressing can restore skid resistance and protect the road surface against water ingress and pothole formation. High friction surfacing significantly increases skid resistance and reduces braking distance and is particularly suited at high risk road sites. With skid accident reduction rates of over 50% the success of high friction surfacing speaks for itself.”
He continued: “Over the last few years there has been a decline in the amount of high friction surfacing being installed on our road networks. At the same time we have seen the numbers of fatal worryingly to start to rise slightly in recent years – up to 1784 in 2018, compared to 1754 in 2012* We must make sure that we don’t forget the lessons that led to the UK having some of the world’s safest roads, and re-double our efforts to reduce accidents year-on-year by using proven road surface technology.”
*Department for Transport; Reported road casualties in Great Britain: 2018 annual report; 2019
Blackpool Council has launched a new collaborative initiative with the roads surface treatments supply chain. Project Amber is a new roads asset management strategy that aims to involve the supply chain in examining and forwarding innovative road maintenance materials and techniques. It has been launched with the support of the Local Councils Road Innovation Group (LCRIG) and the Roads Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).
Project Amber is a progression of Project 30 which was launched by Blackpool in 2011. This delivered a one-time asset management upgrade that took many of Blackpool’s roads from a red condition to green. The new initiative builds upon this success by proactively intervening, with a range of highway surface treatments at the appropriate time rather than leave roads surfaces to deteriorate to the point where larger scale and more disruptive intervention and reconstruction in required.
A feature of Project Amber is the invitation to the supply chain to actively view the conditions of roads in twelve selected wards within Blackpool and then forward proposals for solutions. This is supported by the use of Gaist survey and mapping advanced technology that provides detailed knowledge and understanding of how the roads infrastructure is performing.
Project Amber is the first LCRIG site trial which will be viewed and monitored by other Councils and the Department for Transport.
Will Britain, Head of highways and traffic management at Blackpool Council, said: “Project Amber will forward collaboration with the supply chain and the development and implementation of innovative solutions. In addition, via LCRIG, it will allow other local council highway authorities to tap into the knowledge and resources of the supply chain. Such collaboration will optimise the use of resources and funding.”
Project Amber will see the use of innovative techniques and materials to repair and maintain roads. The treatments will take account of what stage the road surface is in its lifecycle. This means that roads that are still in fairly good condition will be treated to preserve their condition thus preventing deterioration in mid-life. “It’s all about using the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time and at the right cost,” said Britain.
Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive, said: “This is an ideal opportunity for our members to work with Blackpool to keep its roads in optimum condition. The prudential borrowing of funds by Blackpool for a one-time upgrade was a bold move. This is the next step to ensure that they remain in good condition.”
Collaboration is key to the success of Project Amber. This was underlined by Paula Claytonsmith, managing director of Gaist, who said: “We have worked with Blackpool Council for nearly ten years and are pleased to continue to support their latest high profile innovation. We have opened our detailed damage analysis and systems to all those who attended the launch as part of our ongoing commitment to support right place, right time treatments.”
The project has gained the attention of the Department for Transport. Steve Berry, Head of local roads at the Department for Transport, said: “We hope that Project Amber will act as a showcase of what can be achieved by local authorities working in partnership with the supply chain to achieve lower whole life costs in highway maintenance through the use of surface treatments.”
The RSTA 2019 Spring Conference will be held on the 11th April 2019 at the Belfry Hotel and Resort, Sutton Coldfield. With 250+ delegates from across the highways industry and a full speaker programme on the theme “Are Britain’s Roads Open For Business”, followed by the annual golf event (or country pursuits), awards evening and gala dinner. For more details, click on the link below
New government statistics underline the pressures that the poorly maintained local road network is facing and the need for greater investment in maintenance to ensure that the network can cope.
The latest Transport Statistics Great Britain 2018 from the Department for Transport reports that in 2017 the road network carried 327.1 billion vehicle miles. The vast majority of this was on ‘A’ roads and minor roads which carried 147.2 billion vehicle miles and 111.9 billion vehicle miles respectively.
The pressures are forecasted to increase. The latest DfT’s Road Traffic Forecasts 2018 predict a further traffic increase of up to 51% by 2050.
“Decades of under investment means that our road networks are unable to cope with the impact of current high traffic levels let alone a predicted increase of 51%. This is confirmed by the unacceptable high levels of potholes and deterioration,” said Mike Harper, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “The lack of investment means that some £9 billion is necessary just to bring the condition of the current local authority roads up to an acceptable standard, without any additional investment necessary for future increased capacity.”
He continued: “Local authorities are facing severe budgetary pressures that means they are unable to commit to the necessary investment for long-term road maintenance. If the road network is to be able to cope with the traffic demands being placed upon it then the government must provide more funding for road maintenance.
In addition, a funding framework giving certainty over a longer planning period (say 5 years) would enable asset managers to make longer term decisions and plan for proper preventative maintenance by treating surfaces before problems occur. The £420 million recently announced for pothole repair is welcome as extra funding, but as it has to be spent by March 2019, will result in patch and mend rather than properly planned surface treatments. It is this planned maintenance, carried out at the right time of year, that would protect a much larger area of the network and reduce ongoing occurrences of potholes.”
The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has published a new statement making the road safety case for increased investment in local road maintenance. The statement is the first in a series of such underlining the social and economic importance of having a well-maintained local road network.
Decades of under investment in local road maintenance has resulted in a legacy of deteriorating road surfaces to such an extent that the 2018 Alarm Survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance reports that over 24,400 miles of local roads require essential maintenance. That equates to one-in-five roads being classed as being structurally poor and needing replacement within five years.
Such is the rate of deterioration that a recent AA poll found that 85% of respondents believe that the poor condition of roads is a safety issue. Poorly maintained roads, particularly pot holes, are a hazard for cyclists. Earlier this year Jesse Norman, Minister for Transport, reported that between 2007 and 2016 22 cyclists were killed and 368 were seriously injured in road accidents where the contributory factor was a “poor or defective road surface.”
RSTA points out that pot holes are not the only safety issue. Deteriorating levels of skid resistance is also a major concern. The Department for Transport calculates that 27% of the local authority roads need ‘further investigation’ for possible inadequate skid resistance.
“Highway authorities have a legal duty to maintain the road network to a reasonable standard. However, ongoing budget cuts means that they do have the resources to carry out essential programmes of maintenance. This means that the poor condition of our local road network is becoming a road safety concern”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive.
Robinson called on the government to inject a further £1 billion a year to address the £9.3 billion backlog of local road pothole repairs by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty.
“Government must ensure that local authorities are provided with assured, realistic levels of funding that enable them to carry out planned programmes of essential maintenance. Failure to do so may result in a road network that is increasingly unsafe to drive and cycle on.”
The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed calls from MPs for government to examine the ability of local authorities to ensure that the local road network is resilient enough to withstand prolonged heatwaves and not melt.
In its report ‘Heatwaves: adapting to climate change’, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee highlighted this summer’s issue of melting roads across the UK. It pointed out that previous heatwaves had a significant road maintenance cost. The heatwave of 2003 cost £49.6 million of necessary road repairs, £3.6 million of which was in Oxfordshire alone.
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 with the hottest period between noon and 5pm. With temperatures regularly reaching the high 20Cs, 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.
The response from local highway authorities is to send out gritters to spread granite dust to absorb the soft bitumen and so stabilise the road surface and make it less sticky.
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.
However, such modified asphalts tend to be more expensive and are generally only used on heavily-trafficked roads such as the motorway and trunk network of which only 50% is surfaced with the most heat resilient material. The percentage of local roads treated with heat resilient asphalts is much less at an estimated 5%.
“MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee recognised that very few car journeys start and end on the strategic road network. It is the local road network on which the vast majority of journeys are made yet the heat resilience of this network is clearly unable to cope with prolonged high summer temperatures,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive. “Local highway resources do not have the funding to address the problems of freezing in winter and the resultant potholes let alone the repair of roads melting during the summer.”
He continued: “Today, most road surface dressings used to seal road surfaces and restore skid resistance contain polymer modified binders which resist softening during periods of hot weather. Unfortunately the continued lack of investment in the local road network and the increased pressure on local authorities’ reduced budgets means a significant reduction in planned programmes of surface dressing road maintenance. The result is a road network unable to cope with either winter or summer weather.”
With the skid resistance levels of over a quarter of the local road network reported to be questionable and requiring further investigation, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) is calling for greater use of high friction surfacing (HFS).
The latest Department for Transport Road Conditions in England reports that, over the three year period 2014/15 to 2016/17, 27% of the local road network has questionable skid resistance levels. The London Boroughs had the highest proportion of the road network requiring further investigation, at 48%. Skidding resistance figures do not necessarily reflect safety levels on the network but do indicate sites where further investigation is required.
“The greatest potential for increased accidents due to reduced skidding resistance is at road junctions approaches to traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and roundabouts as well as road stretches that have high accidents levels”, advised Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “In addition to regularly surface dressing their roads, local authorities need to ensure that these potential accident hot spots are made as safe as possible with the use of high friction surfacing”.
High friction surfacing is a proven road surface treatment that increases skid resistance and reduces braking distance thereby reducing the potential for accidents. With a skid accident reduction of over 50% its success speaks for itself: it saves lives and money. Treatment with high friction surfacing makes potentially high risk road locations far safer for both drivers and pedestrians and the financial savings of achieving this are considerable. With the associated accident and investigation costs of non-motorway fatal accidents calculated to be £1.4million, the application of high friction surfacing offers considerable financial value.
However, despite the benefits of high friction surfacing over the last few years there has been a serious decline in its use due in large part to local authorities’ misplaced concerns about service life, durability and increasing costs. “When installed correctly HFS has an average service life of 8 – 12 years. With regards to cost, since the 1980’s the cost of HFS has been able to be balanced against a broader savings strategy with allocated accident investigation and prevention budgets proving the investment savings from high friction surfacing against the cost of accidents and casualties”, said Robinson.
RSTA has developed ADEPT endorsed industry best practice guidance and approved by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and the Institute of Highways Engineers approved training courses to ensure best practice installation of this potentially life-saving road surface treatment.
The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has reacted with concern at the findings of new analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) that by 2020 almost 60p in every £1 that people pay in council tax may have to be spent on social care leaving less to fund essential road maintenance. This is up from 41p in 2010/11.
The analysis underlines the strain being placed on council’s budgets as they struggle with ever decreasing government funding. By 2020, local government in England will have lost 75 pence out of every £1 of Revenue Support Grant funding that it received from government to spend in 2015. Almost half of all councils – 168 councils – will no longer receive any of this core central government funding by 2019/20.
Government plans to allow local government as a whole to keep all of its business rates income by the end of the decade are in doubt after the Local Government Finance Bill, which was passing through parliament before the election, was not reintroduced in the Queen’s Speech.
“By 2020 it is predicted that only 5p in every pound of council tax will be spent on roads and street-lighting,” warned Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “The result will be more poorly maintained roads and more portholes.”
He continued: “Local government in England faces a £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020. The Government must recognise that councils cannot continue without sufficient resources that enable adequate funding for all areas of council services.
The local road network is a council’s most important asset yet they are forced to ransack their highways budget to fund other services.”
The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed the Manchester-based initiative where 180 cyclists are trialling the use of a combined bike light and road condition monitor.
Developed by See.Sense, the monitor uses sensor-derived data that make the light flash more brightly and quickly at risky situations such as busy junctions or roundabouts. It also crowdsources data on the road surface condition and records near- miss potential accidents. The aim is to increase safety by collecting road environment and condition data for analysis by CityVerve, Manchester’s Internet of Things (IOT) smart city consortium.
The decline in the state of road surfaces is one of the main factors behind a significant increase in the numbers of cyclists being killed or seriously injured according to the CTC, the national cycling charity. Statistics from the Department for Transport show that in the year ending March 2015 3,410 cyclists were killed or seriously injured compared with 3,383 a year earlier. A further 16,760 cyclists were slightly injured. Commenting on the figures, CTC said that the rise in deaths and injuries was due to an increase in traffic, rising number of cyclists and the continued deterioration in road surfaces.
“This initiative is to be applauded. The data gathered by the cyclists should prove useful in providing a true picture of the state of Manchester’s roads”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive.
He continued: “Cyclists are amongst our most vulnerable road users. For them a deterioration in the road surface can result in serious, life-changing injuries. There is currently a £12.1 billion backlog of local road maintenance. Despite the government providing £6 billion to maintain local roads over the next six years, the backlog, continued cuts in funding and the ever increasing use of roads means that local councils are fighting a losing battle and find it difficult to keep pace with the level of road repairs required.”