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UK carriageway resurfaced with ‘anti-ageing’ material

Image credit: Bjorn Hovdal/Dreamstime

A section of dual carriageway in Northamptonshire has become the first in the UK to be resurfaced with a new 'anti-ageing' material designed to help roads last significantly longer, Highways England has announced.

England’s motorways and major A-roads are expected to be resurfaced every 10-12 years because water, sun and air - combined with the weight of heavy traffic - causes the surface to deteriorate and crack. Now, laboratory tests have shown that an innovative blend of materials can help extend the life of the road surface without the need for a 'facelift'.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to help us keep England’s motorways and major A-roads in good condition,” said Mike Wilson, chief highways engineer, Highways England. The ultimate priority for us is safety, so we invest in new technology and materials to keep those using the roads safe. Longer lasting roads means fewer roadworks, less disruption for motorists and a more sustainable network for everyone.”

Highways England together with two of its partners, building materials company Tarmac and oil and gas company Total, has resurfaced a busy section of the A43 near Silverstone, Northamptonshire, with the new asphalt mix.

A new bitumen called ‘Styrelf Long Life’ holds together the mix, which is designed to be more resistant to the elements by oxidising more slowly. This slower process means that the road surface stays flexible for longer, preventing cracks from forming, experts have said.

According to Highways England, more durable road surfaces that require fewer repairs could lead to less money needing to be spent on maintenance, lower carbon emissions caused by maintenance work and less disruption for road users.

Total estimates that getting the asphalt required to resurface a mile of single-lane carriageway - not including transport to site and working with it - can produce up to 26.5 tonnes of CO2. It added that if roads could last longer and building companies could avoid two sets of resurfacing within a 60-year period, the reduction in asphalt production alone could save the equivalent of the CO2 produced by an average car driven for more than 27,000 miles.

Rick Ashton, market development manager, Total, said: “Our key focus is sustainability through durability. These long-life binders will ultimately lead towards our vision of net-zero carbon by 2050 by reducing roadworks, saving manufacturing, transport and installation energy and the associated emissions. This trial paves the way for enhanced highway asset management and predictive deterioration modelling for Highways England.”

The new material has previously been tested in the laboratories of Total, at Tarmac’s site in Elstow in Bedfordshire and on sections of road in the Netherlands and Germany. The A43 trial is the first time it has been used with high traffic levels in the UK.

As part of the project, technical experts from Total will regularly measure the performance of the material against an equivalent control section laid at the same time on the A43, before further use of the new material is considered elsewhere in the country.

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