A new bitumen binder which aims to increase the lifespan of roads and reduce the need for roadwork interventions is being put to the test in a long-term study.
A section of dual carriageway in Northamptonshire has become the first in the country to be resurfaced with the pioneering new product called TOTAL STYRELF® Long Life.
England’s motorways and major A-roads are expected to be resurfaced every 10-12 years because water ingress, UV exposure and oxidation cause the surface to deteriorate and crack.
However, laboratory tests have shown that TOTAL STYRELF® Long Life can protect the road surface from the elements so well that roads built with it could last for a longer period of time without the need for intervention.
TOTAL UK has worked in partnership with Highways England and Tarmac to resurface a busy section of the A43 near Silverstone, in Northamptonshire, with the new mix.
TOTAL STYRELF® Long Life is designed to be more resistant to the elements by oxidising more slowly. This slows down the ageing process meaning that the road surface stays flexible for longer. Consequently, the binder’s initial performance characteristics, such as resistance to fatigue, fretting, and thermal cracking are retained for longer.
More durable road surfaces that require fewer repairs lead to lower carbon emissions caused by maintenance work, less money needing to be spent on maintenance and less disruption for road users.
Rick Ashton, market development manager at TOTAL UK, said: “At TOTAL UK our key focus is Sustainability through Durability. These long-life binders will contribute to achieving clients’ decarbonisation goals by reducing roadworks, saving manufacturing, transport and installation energy, and the associated emissions. This trial paves the way for enhanced highways asset management and predictive deterioration modelling for Highways England.”
TOTAL UK estimates that getting the asphalt required to resurface a mile of single lane carriageway – not including transport to site– can produce up to 26.5 tonnes of CO2.
If roads lasted longer, so that two resurfacing interventions could be avoided, 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.
Three sections of the road have been surfaced, the first with a standard bitumen, the second with TOTAL STYRELF® eXtreme 100 and the third with TOTAL STYRELF® Long Life.
The trial could run for up to 15 years. TOTAL UK’s experts will take samples from each section of the carriageway at regular intervals to measure the ageing performance and key characteristics of the bitumen, and to understand the degradation caused by oxidation and UV exposure.
The new technology has previously been tested in the laboratories of TOTAL, and on sections of road in Holland and Germany, but the A43 trial is the first time it has been used worldwide with such high traffic levels.
Mike Wilson, Highways England’s chief highways engineer, said: “We’re always looking for innovative ways to help us keep England’s motorways and major A-roads in good condition. 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.”
Brian Kent, technical director at Tarmac, said: “As part of our corporate commitment to sustainability, boosting efficiencies and delivering improved whole life performance across the network, we’re always pushing to introduce any new technology or innovation that can further improve the durability of the roads we maintain.
“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.”