Funding for new technology that could help stop potholes from forming has been announced by transport secretary Chris Grayling.

The government will provide £22.9 million for research and trials on new surface materials or pothole repair.

Real-world tests of new road surfaces and technologies in eight local authorities will see which emerging innovations provide long-term solutions, Grayling said. 

The Live Labs projects will be delivered by councils — including Kent, Staffordshire, Reading, Suffolk and Solihull and Birmingham — and if successful, could be adopted by other authorities.

These schemes include expanding the test of plastic roads in Cumbria, using kinetic energy off Buckinghamshire roads to power lighting, and using geothermal energy created from paths to keep car parks and bus stations in Central Bedfordshire from freezing over.

“Potholes are the number one enemy for road users and this government is looking at numerous ways to keep our roads in the best condition,” Grayling said. “Today’s trials will see how new technologies work in the real world to ensure our roads are built for the 21st century.”

In the Budget in November, the chancellor announced an additional £420 million for road maintenance for 2018 to 2019 financial year. This brings the total funding for pothole repair and roads maintenance, including the Live Labs project, from 2015 to 2020 up to £6.6 billion.

The news was welcomed by the Freight Transport Association (FTA). “Any trial that has the potential to improve road operation performance is a worthwhile venture – and as such, FTA applauds the DfT’s project,” said Malcolm Bingham, head of road network management policy, FTA.

“From the trialling of plastic roads, fixing potholes, to more effective analytics which may provide more useful information on diversions, there are a mix of projects in the announcements made by the Secretary of State.

“The road freight industry has had to deal with unsatisfactory road repairs and roadworks for too long; the government should rightly be seeking out more effective methods of maintaining a road system which carries the bulk of freight traffic,” he concluded.

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