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Road marking research: current products exceeding National Highways’ technical standards

A long-running study into the performance of road markings has found that products available in the UK are offering far higher performance than currently specified in UK standards.

The study, conducted by National Highways in partnership with Roadcare and Kier, was part of a near-£700,000 international innovation competition to discover and test new marking solutions.

The discrepancy in existing material quality versus requirement is in part due to testing on materials on a surface not having been carried out in the last decade. This new study and competition made use of a high-speed turntable, or lab-based ‘wheel over’, where different road marking materials are tested by being ‘driven over’ thousands of times.

The best products from this test were then subjected to real-road tests, followed by removal testing - a major long-standing issue which leads to the appearance of ghost markings on many roads.

Over 30 innovative entries were tested, with seven finalists being tested for retroreflectivity and skid resistance.

The results were as noted above - current technologies are outperforming the technical requirements currently set out by National Highways.

But the bad news was that it still remains far easier to apply road markings than it is to remove them down the line.

The study (which you can read in full here) noted that: “The removal trials, while not identifying any innovative methods other than variations on the use of water pressure did show that consistent results could be achieved where crews are given sufficient time to deliver what is expected of them, which isn’t always the case.”

“The predominant methodology uses high-pressure water blasting. While we are seeing rapid development in some aspects of this technique, such as innovation in the design of the removal heads, lack of control systems means that the quality of the finish achieved is influenced by a combination of time allowed to carry out removals, the skill of the individual operative and the quality of the underlying road surface. If any of these is not at the optimum level, the results can be costly.”

The study wasn’t without some controversy though, with the Road Safety Markings Association suggesting that the testing methodology of the study ‘failed to produce quantitative data on the wear to which products were exposed’.

“As a result, no technically sound basis exists from which can be established the performance of individual products or comparative performance between different products,” concluded Stu McInroy, CEO of the RSMA.


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