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The problem with ghost markings

If you clicked on this article hoping for a spooky story, then I’m sorry to disappoint! Ghost markings don’t refer to haunted highways, but instead, the still-visible remains of line markings - usually visible after a road layout has changed.

Line markings are incredibly important for safety on our roads, but when junctions or entire road layouts change, so do the markings that help guide drivers as to where they need to be on the road.

New fresh line markings? Great! Highly visible and easy to follow in all weather conditions. But what about the old road markings?

Road markings are very difficult to remove as the material they’re made from is designed to be ultra long-lasting and hard-wearing. The most common techniques include water blasting to remove the material from the road surface, but this can still leave a faint trace of where the road marking used to be, which can confuse drivers - and is especially tricky for autonomous vehicles that rely on clear line marking paint to place the car on the road.

This is an issue that Highways England has been exploring and has invested over half a million pounds into an international research project to find solutions for completely removing various road marking materials, including thermoplastics and paint.

Martin Bolt noted at the launch of the competition that: “We know ghost markings on any roads, not just ours, can be confusing for drivers and autonomous vehicles so we set out to find a solution which makes a real difference not just for road users on our network but across the globe.

“There is a worldwide problem with road marking removal and it is the first time the industry has been challenged like this”.

So next time you’re out driving on a recently changed stretch of road, see if you can spot any ghost markings on the road surface… but be sure to follow the new ones!


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