Highways England is trialling a new material likened to an “anti-ageing cream for roads” that it said could help roads last significantly longer.
A section of dual carriageway in Northamptonshire has become the first in the country to be resurfaced with a mix held together by a new bitumen called Styrelf Long Life, which is designed to be more resistant to the elements by oxidising more slowly.
Highways England said it hoped the slowed oxidisation process would mean that road surfaces would stay flexible for longer, preventing cracks from forming.
The new material has previously been tested in the laboratories of oil firm 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.
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 its use is considered elsewhere in the country.
England’s motorways and major A-roads are currently 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.
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.
Highways England said that if roads lasted longer, so that two sets of resurfacing could be avoided in a 60-year period, the reduction in asphalt production alone could save the equivalent of the CO2 produced by an average car if it was driven for more than 270,000 miles.
Brian Kent, technical director at Tarmac, said: “What we have in this case is essentially 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 chief highways engineer, said: “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.”