Issue 6 - Spring 2012



Road seminar to examine delivery promises of new codes of practice

A free one-day industry seminar will examine whether the new suite of codes of practice developed by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) and ADEPT can deliver on their promise to offer the roads industry technical guidance and benchmarks for best practice thereby ensuring the ‘get-it right first time’ approach advocated by the recent HMEP Review.

The seminar will be held on Wednesday 3rd October at the Chester Racecourse, Chester. Hosted by RSTA and ADEPT, it is aimed at local highway authority personnel and contractors who need to be aware of the latest guidance and best practice for road surface treatments. The change of highway authority service delivery through outsourcing and the reduction in authority in-house expertise has resulted in a greater reliance on the expertise of the specialist road surface treatment contractor. The new codes aim to share that expertise to the benefit of all those involved in road maintenance. Key local highway authority and industry speakers will examine the full range of the new codes of practice that include:
  • Surface dressing
  • High friction surfacing
  • Slurry surfacing incorporating micro-surfacing
  • Re-texturing
  • Geosynthetics and steel meshes
  • Velocity patching
  • Thermal road repairs
  • In-situ ecycling
  • Crack and joint repair systems
  • Asphalt preservation
For further information and registration contact: [email protected], or visit: www.rsta-uk.org/calendar

CE Marking explained

An important free to attend members seminar on CE Marking for surface dressing and slurry-micro surfacing will be held on 17th July in Milton Keynes. CE Marking will be mandatory by next July. The event will involve experts from BSI and will advise members on what they need to be doing now to ensure that they are ready for this big change coming next year. For further information and registration contact: [email protected]

RSTA welcomes HMEP pothole review recommendations

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed the findings of the HMEP Pothole Review and believes that the Review’s recommendations provide the way forward for improving the condition of our road network.

The Pothole Review was undertaken by the Department for Transport’s Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme. It was instigated following the devastating impact of three successive severe winters upon the road network which resulted in over 2.7 million potholes in 2010 and a cumulative repair bill of £1.3 billion.

The Review carried out a comprehensive examination of why potholes occur and how best to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Three key messages were determined: prevention is better than cure; do the repair right first time; communicate clearly with the public. These key messages underline the Review’s 17 recommendations for improved highway maintenance. The recommendations range from the need for long-term programmes of preventative maintenance work, the adoption of good asset management practice, the need to adopt and share best practice and the need to develop a national scheme to ensure the quality of workmanship and repairs.

The Review’s thorough examination of the problem of inadequate maintenance programmes and inconsistent quality of workmanship and repair is to be welcomed as are the wide ranging and relevant recommendations. These provide the basis for a more efficient approach to improved road maintenance. The RSTA and its members look forward to working with local highway authorities to help them adopt and act upon the Review’s recommendations.

RSTA Road Safety 2012 winners announced

The winners of the Road Surface Treatments Association Health and Safety Awards have been announced.

The road network can be a hazardous place to work so a high level of health and safety awareness and competence is essential. The RSTA Health and Safety Awards aim to capture and promote industry best practice. For 2012, there were three categories: Innovation; Workforce Involvement and Behavioural Safety. The Awards were presented by Joy Jones from the Health and Safety Executive and were sponsored for the second year running by Nynas Bitumen.

The winner of the Innovation category was Nu-Phalt Ltd for their thermal road repair process described by the HSE as a redesign to provide an integrated approach that offered productivity, quality and health and safety benefits. The redesign demonstrated true innovation in challenging a traditional work method and resulted in significantly reduced vibration and manual handling risks. Workers’ feedback on the new process has been very positive. Second prize went to Power Plane Ltd for removing the need for banksmen on road projects. Removal of the hazard is far better than managing the risk.

First prize in the Workforce Involvement category went to Lancashire County Commercial Group for the further enhancement of the tool box talks that encouraged greater engagement with supervisors and workers with subsequent health and safety benefits. Second prize went to Colas Ltd for their health and safety campaign that was developed to go beyond professional drivers. Particular commendations were for the delivery being undertaken by peers and for the evidence that feedback was acted upon.

JPCS Ltd was awarded first prize for the Behavioural Safety category. Their entry illustrated the implementation of Visible Felt Leadership and demonstrated a comprehensive approach to laying the foundations for sustained health and safety improvements across the business and supply chain. Of particular note was the level of leadership, integration of health and safety within other business ideals and the understanding that all levels of employees needed to be involved in order to facilitate cultural change. Colas Ltd was awarded second prize for their integration of health and safety at all levels of management processes in order to provide long-term sustainable change that involved all employees.

Commenting on the RSTA Health and Safety Awards, Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive, said: “Health and safety should never be an after-thought or something that is simply bolted-on. It must be integral to all day-to-day business processes. The winning companies, indeed all those companies who entered these awards, should be congratulated on their ambition to deliver a high level health and safety competence that is an integral component of their business.”

Proposed privatised trunk roads will see local roads suffer

Road pricing and toll roads could see drivers switching from motorways and A roads and increasing traffic demands on an already deteriorating local road network warned the Road Surface Treatment Association (RSTA).

The warning came as the Prime Minister David Cameron launched a new study into the private financing and ownership of Britain’s roads. To avoid paying charges to use privatised roads, drivers will turn to the local roads thereby increasing the pressure on a crumbling network that already needs £11 billion to repair it. The local road network is not of a standard to take the additional traffic.

Drivers already contribute over £45 billion each year in taxes yet only £10 billion of that is spent on roads now there is the prospect of having to pay even more as maintenance for the local road network in particular continues to be underfunded.

Road patch and mend is a losers’ game

The local road network in England and Wales continues to deteriorate as local authorities fight a losing game of patch-and-mend rather than adopt a winning formula of programmed maintenance.

The latest findings from the annual local authority road maintenance (ALARM) survey makes gloomy reading with councils reporting an annual road maintenance funding shortfall of £800 million – an average of £5.3 million for each authority. It reports that it would take nearly £10 billion and 11 years to clear the backlog of repairs and get the road network into a reasonable condition. The ALARM survey is undertaken by the Asphalt Industry Alliance and is based upon information supplied by 70% of local authorities in England and Wales.

Decades of under-funding have forced local authorities to adopt short-term planning and expensive patch-and-mend rather than be able to plan and instigate programmes of cost-effective long-term maintenance. The succession of harsh winters and the fact that one in five roads has a residual life of less than five years shows that expensive patch-and-mend is not the way forward.”

In 2011, the Government’s response to the local authority cost of repairing winter damaged roads was to provide an additional £300 million emergency funding. Although welcomed this level of funding, given the £10 billion required to bring the local road network up to a reasonable standard of repair, is inadequate.

The local road network is an essential national asset which is being undermined and neglected by the lack of adequate funding. Local authorities must be given the resources to enable them to plan and invest in long-term road maintenance.

MPs criticise cuts in road maintenance budgets

Cuts in road maintenance budgets will result in greater deterioration, cost more in the long-term and will also increase repair bills for motorists and compensation claims against highway departments, a committee of MP’s has warned. They criticised the Department for Transport for not understanding that simple equation.

A report by the Public Accounts Committee on the Department for Transport’ spending has called into question the level of cuts in maintenance budgets and the DfT’s reasoning of hoping to make cost savings from less frequent but more intensive maintenance. This could prove short-sighted. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts said: “The Department doesn’t fully understand what impact its cuts to road maintenance will have on the state of the UK’s roads. My Committee is concerned that short-term budget cutting could prove counter-productive, costing more in the long-term as a result of increased vehicle damage and the higher cost of repairing the more severe road damage”. Local councils who are responsible for 90 per cent of the country’s road network have been told to instigate cuts of £223 million from their road maintenance budgets despite their having a £11 billion backlog in road repairs.

The report has been welcomed by the RSTA who advocates the cost advantages of planned preventative maintenance. “The reduction in road maintenance budgets is a false economy. Prevention of road damage is far cheaper than repair”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

It costs just £2m² to surface dress and maintain a road but costs an average of £78m² to repair potholes.

In addition to the cost of road repair, there is the cost of pothole damage to cars and subsequent compensation claims against highway departments.

Robinson pointed to the wide range of surface treatments available to ensure long-term road performance. They are fast to apply, generate no or minimum waste and provide cost economies that allow highway authorities to get the best value from their budgets. “Pro-active planned road maintenance is the way forward not expensive patch-and-mend”, said Robinson. “Not investing in road maintenance will see roads deteriorate still further then the costs of repair soar”.

RSTA Conference 2012: Improving Highway Maintenance Efficiency

This year’s RSTA Annual Conference examined improving efficiency which is increasingly the mantra behind meeting client demands for ‘more for less’. Setting the scene Rob Gillespie, RSTA Chairman, outlined the many challenges that are facing highway client, contractor and supplier. These challenges result from the conflict of a deteriorating road network and the demand by motorists for better maintained roads set against a tough economic environment of budget cutbacks. These are challenges that can be met by further improving highway maintenance efficiency which in turn will provide increased value for money, improved whole life performance and better asset management.

The issue of how increased efficiency can address the problem of maintaining a road network with reduced budgets is of keen interest to national and local highway authorities and is one that the Highway Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) is seeking to show the way forward. Steve Kent, Director of Community and Environment for Cheshire West & Chester Council, explained the reasons behind HMEP and how it aimed to demonstrate to hard pressed highway authorities how increased efficiency will result in ‘more for less’. Recent ALARM surveys have proven the negative impact of reduced highway maintenance. It is estimated that some £10.7 billion is necessary to bring the road network up to standard whilst the backlog of potholes continues to grow as there is a direct link between the lack of investment and poor road condition.

HMEP is not a magic cure nor is it a short term initiative bid for funding. Rather, it seeks to look beyond traditional thinking and demonstrate the potential for increased highway efficiency via a number of recommendations that are practical and adaptable and that underline the benefits of working together and exchanging information on best practice and new innovations. In addition to the report that was published in April, HMEP plans to keep the momentum going with a Delivery Network to be in place by the summer followed by a rolling programme of new outputs during 2013.

Stephen Child, Director of Stephen Child Consultancy Ltd, believed that relevance of the HMEP pothole review lay in its recognition of the need to address budget constraints with realistic and efficient repair and management of potholes. The review has addressed a number of gaps in guidance including the definition of a pothole, the need for preventative maintenance and ‘right first time’ repair plus stakeholder commitment and full public engagement. Above all, the HMEP review demonstrated how when it comes to efficient highway maintenance, prevention is better than cure.

A different take on how to improve highway maintenance efficiency was forwarded by Ramesh Sinhal of the Highways Agency. He proposed a drawing together of highway performance standards in order to encourage efficiency via broader process approaches. Increasingly, the focus for highway maintenance will be on better asset management, improved life extension and renewal at lowest cost. Sinhal explained that performance standards could be used to save £40 million of the typical £180 million annual road maintenance bill through better targeting of maintenance, re-examination of maintenance intervention thresholds, enhanced value management and the use of lower cost materials. He suggested that amendments to HD30 could promote the use of simpler maintenance techniques such as sealing and patching or the use of cold ultra-thin applied surfacing.

However, at the end of the day increased highway maintenance efficiency can only do so much if appropriate investment in road maintenance is not forthcoming argued Alan MacKenzie, Chairman of the Asphalt industry Alliance. He warned that if the right level of investment is not found the UK’s greatest asset, its road network, then the country would grind to a halt. The latest ALARM survey reported over 1.7 million potholes and an £800 million annual shortfall in funding. Decades of under-funding has forced local highway departments to adopt short-term fixes rather than long-term preventative maintenance. The result of this will be that one in five roads will fail within the next five years. In addition to the high cost of reactive pothole patch-and-mend, MacKenzie pointed out that compensation claims resulting from vehicles damaged by potholes cost local authorities over £21.3 million and took the equivalent of 20 years of staff time to process. Now that is not an efficient use of budgets or staff time.

Summing up, Rob Gillespie pointed out that lasts year’s predicted challenges were this year’s facts. However, greater investment and greater collaboration would help turn those facts into opportunities for increased efficiencies and new innovative solutions.

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