Highways England and local authorities are on the look out for low cost remedies to damaged skin.

Potholes, cracks and general wear and tear are an increasing issue on the road network. But new help could be on hand in the form of a type of road moisturiser.

Youthful looks

Tests are taking place on a new type of material for resurfacing roads. The aim is to help make them more durable, lasting ‘significantly’ longer and reducing the need for roadworks.

Motorways and major A-roads are expected to be resurfaced every 10-12 years. The combined and ongoing effect of water, sun and air are destructive to the road surface. It’s a bit like your skin and hence the wide scale use of products to protect against the damage and stop it drying out. Unfortunately, road surfaces also have to cope with an increasing weight of heavy traffic. And with the Asphalt Industry stating that resurfacing has slipped to an average of over 18 years, road surface look set to deteriorate further and faster.

However, laboratory tests have shown that an ‘innovative’ blend of materials can help. What’s more, it promises to extend the life of a road’s surface without the need for a facelift.

Magic ingredients

Utilising a new bitumen called Styrelf Long Life, the promise is an anti-aging cream for roads.

The product engineering will make it more resistant to the elements, in particular, oxidisation. Slowing the ageing process means road surfaces will be protected from drying out, staying flexible for longer and reducing cracking.

Testing in the laboratories of Total, at Tarmac’s site in Elstow in Bedfordshire and on small sections of road in The Netherlands have proved successful. But the real test comes on major, everyday roads, and over an extended period of times. ‘See the difference in two weeks’ type promises are unlikely to wash without the science and proof.

Highways England is doing just this on a section of the A43 in Northamptonshire. The trial is the first time it has been used with high traffic levels in the UK.

Technical experts from Total will regularly measure the performance of the material. Laying a ‘control’ section along the same piece of the road network will allow a clear comparisons of wear and tear. If successful, only then will the new tech be considered for roads elsewhere in the country.

The hope is to create more durable road surfaces that require fewer repairs. Maintenance costs would be lowered significantly. Furthermore, lower carbon emissions and disruption will be caused by maintenance work.

Looking and feeling good for longer

Brian Kent, technical director at Tarmac, says: “An anti-ageing cream for roads – just as these products are designed to reduce and prevent the signs of fine lines and overall ageing of the skin, the new bitumen being trialled on the A43 will protect the road surface.

“It not only has the potential to offer improved value for money to the public purse, but it also contains properties to increase the overall lifespan of roads.

“Through preventing cracks to the surface of the road caused by elements such as air and water, the longer life bitumen has the ability to reduce disruption, deliver long-term carbon savings and importantly help network operators to better manage their assets.”

Mike Wilson, Highways England’s chief highways engineer, said: “Longer lasting roads means fewer roadworks, less disruption for motorists and a more sustainable network for everyone.”