A new type of material that acts like an anti-ageing cream for roads could prevent the need for roadworks and reduce the environmental impact.
A section of dual carriageway in Northamptonshire has become the first in the country to be resurfaced with a pioneering new material that is designed to help roads last significantly longer.
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.
However, 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.
Highways England, together with partners Tarmac and Total, has resurfaced a busy section of the A43 near Silverstone, in Northamptonshire, with the new asphalt mix.
The mix is held together by a new bitumen called Styrelf Long Life, 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 forming.
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.
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 270000 miles – more than 10 times around the Earth.
Mike Wilson, Highways England’s chief highways engineer, said:
Brian Kent, technical director at Tarmac, said:
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.
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.