Britain’s European Road Trip
Going abroad to Europe isn’t just about cheap alcohol and duty free. Nor is it just about the endless queues at Dover or Folkestone that make us feel as though our long-awaited holiday is never going to get underway as we sit over-heating with hungry, thirsty, frustrated children who no longer want to look for Pokemon on the hard shoulder as it crawls past. And then – something magical happens. Something changes during that ferry crossing, during that Eurostar passage and voila – as we disembark on the other side something just feels different.
When you first roll your car off the ferry, what’s the first feeling you notice after driving for only a short while? How quiet your car sounds and how smoothly it’s riding on the roads. Driving has suddenly become a pleasure again as you enjoy the scenery, instead of keeping an eye out for constant cracks, fissures, uneven surfaces and worst of all, potholes that has become the modus operandi of the self-preserving British motorist. Just a simple Channel crossing away, however, the driving experience is one of technology, safety and reliability. And relax.
Across many countries in Europe, road conditions on major highways are on the whole significantly better in comparison to the UK. Why is this? Perhaps because other countries put motorists’ safety at the core of their road networks investing from the outset and prioritising repair when required. In fact, some countries, such as Germany, have so much confidence in their roads that they operate without speed limits on their autobahns which in turn necessitates great surfacing at all times. Or are our European neighbours just less willing to tolerate delays, roadworks and damages to their own vehicles and their ease of access across the country and beyond is placed at a premium.
One in six of the UK’s roads is classed as being in poor condition. And given that according to the 2015 statistics from the Department for Transport, there are 246,000km of roads in the UK, 2,300km of which are motorways and 31,000km of which are major roads, one in six being in poor condition means that the majority of motorists in the UK are likely to be fairly routinely affected.
12 years for a ‘one-time’ catch up on UK road repairs
It is estimated that the amount of time for a one-time ‘catch-up’ on road repairs in the UK would be 12 years. 12 years is not only an excessive figure, but it prompts the question if our European cousins can do it, why can’t we? Surely the best approach to any form of maintenance is preventative instead of reactive? And if we could ensure that all new roads were built to a high, durable, standard with safety and longevity at the forefront then that would at least prevent the reactive maintenance bill from rising year on year.
High-performing geosynthetic pavement reinforcement technologies such as the GlasGrid ® product range do exactly this. The GlasGrid® interlayer product was introduced to the market over 30 years ago and has since been tested rigorously and continuously at specialist facilities across the world. 2012 Accelerated Pavement Testing (APT) in Nantes, proved that in terms of fatigue, GlasGrid® is up to 3 times more durable than unreinforced layers. We have the technology available to us and now need to see pavement reinforcement approached with an investment, rather than a reactive, mindset.
Safety at the core of road maintenance
Road maintenance in the UK is seriously underfunded and if that is how things have to be, then why not preempt damage to roads by using new technologies that could reinforce the structure of the roads? Adopting this approach could mean that one day, tourists visiting from the rest of mainland Europe set down on Britain’s side of the Channel and remark how nice it is to drive on our roads. A change in working practice could close this deficit and bring us in line with the rest of Europe. Working smarter, with anticipation, planning and long term investment will see us with a road construction and maintenance plan that is highly sustainable – environmentally, physically and financially, with safety for all road users placed right at the core.