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Britain’s disintigrating roads

Having been out on the bike in Kent over the weekend, it’s clear that the disintigrating surfaces have taken a further step down from last year.

Some of my training routes have subsided so badly at the side of the road that I’m going to have to go round them carefully to re-assess them to see if they are actually SAFE for me to train on. That’s a terrible state of affairs and another reason for doing as much training as I can over in France!

But that’s not the worst of it – those areas of damage can be dodged on a bike.

I was following a car yesterday when it came to a near-standstill on one lane. I couldn’t quite see what the issue was, but hung back and all was soon revealed as the car moved forward again. Over a stretch of about five metres, the road surface had almost totally disintigrated.

We’re not talking a few potholes here, there was virtually no surface left, and what was left was a mix of mud and the gravel base on which the surface had once been built.

I picked my way thought it easily enough at 10mph, but I wonder what would have happened had I come across the problem at night on dip with a car coming the other way – would I have seen the extent of the damage? I don’t know.

Something that’s less obvious is that many roads have got steadily narrower over the last few years as the road sweepers no longer make it out to rural roads. The result is that the hedges and the grass verges are doing what they do naturally and encroaching onto the tarmac surface.

This was made quite clear at one point where a new driveway had been built to join the main carriageway and a white line had been painted across it, to merge with the existing white line at the edge of the carriageway on either side.

Except you couldn’t actually see the white line, there was around half a metre of grass and mud encroached over the edge of the road, totally burying the white line!

Which makes it all the more relevant that this report on the state of Britain’s carriageway markings on Britain’s roads dropped into the Survival Skills pigeonhole today.

Taken from Road Safety GB

Almost a third of the length of Britain’s single carriageway A roads have white lines so worn out that they do not meet recognised standards, according to a report from the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA).

‘A survey into the quality of road safety markings on Britain’s roads’, which was published today (15/3/11), assessed more than 1,500 miles of the road network. It also reveals that Britain’s most dangerous roads have the most worn-out centre-line markings.

Of more than 60 single-carriageway A-roads surveyed, on average 14% of road markings are ‘completely worn out’, and a further 15% fall into the ‘amber’ zone and should immediately be scheduled for replacement. Just 29% of lines reach the acceptable level of visibility.

Of the 470 miles of A roads and motorways surveyed, one in five falls below the minimum specifiable standard, while 8% have centre line markings that are barely visible. And while 39% of dual carriageways and 38% of motorways make the recommended rating used by the industry, this is a drop in quality since 2008, when 69% of markings on duals and 49% on motorways reached this grade.

George Lee, national director of RSMA, said: “These motorways and strategic A-roads are managed by the Highways Agency, which has clearly specified standards for the quality of road markings.

“Two years ago, just 2% of our major road network had markings that rated virtually non-existent. This figure has risen at an alarming rate and now nearly a tenth of the centre lines of our trade routes are dangerously worn.

Most of the single-carriageway A-roads in the survey are managed solely by local authorities. The RSMA is concerned that Highways Agency ratings for road markings have never been formally adopted by local authorities, leading to inconsistent maintenance standards on UK roads and the potential for the significant maintenance shortfalls identified in the RSMA report.

“Road markings provide the best, most simple navigation aid to drivers, who must to be able to ‘read’ the road at every turn. Without this most modest of investments, motorists are driving blind when we can, in fact, save lives for the cost of a pot of paint.”

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and strategy, said: “White lines are such a cheap and effective way to assist drivers that it is unbelievable they are not being given much higher priority.

“The IAM has been highlighting the risk on rural roads for years and surveys such as these underline the need to invest in well proven road safety measures.

“Equally worrying is the state of the white lines on motorways. If the Highways Agency has allowed its road markings to deteriorate to such an extent it is no surprise that local councils are struggling.

“Only a sustained period of investment in maintenance will reverse the trends highlighted by today’s survey. Until that happens, our safety advice to drivers is that they should be aware that lines are wearing out and be ready to use the other visual clues to hazards, such as road signs.”

For more information contact Becky Hadley on 020 7808 7997.

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