RSTA's Boss calls for new strategy on roads

Dominic Browne

The chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called for a new, comprehensive strategy to help councils move to more effective road maintenance.

Paul Boss (pictured) argued for a strategy help local authorities and other road operators develop and invest in more preventative treatments to get the most from local roads spending.

He also highlighted that preventative methods could 'significantly reduce the carbon associated with highways maintenance works as well provide a cost-effective way of helping them achieve higher levels of funding through the Self-Assessment process'.

Speaking after the latest £500m tranche of 'Pothole Fund' cash was allocated to councils in England, he suggested more preventative maintenance should be employed alongside reactive maintenance to bring the network up to a reasonable state.

Mr Boss was highways asset manager for the celebrated partnership between Staffordshire and Amey before leading the RSTA.

He said: 'We have to continue to think differently about the way in which we can treat our networks. Roads and infrastructure will continue to play a crucial role in the ‘building back better’ agenda moving forward. Sadly, there will never be enough funding to solve all the problems we have, but a combination of approaches will help the money highway authorities do have to go further.

'The development of technology in the sector has meant we can now understand in more detail than ever the condition of our network. By supporting the use of surface treatments, we can use this understanding to solve the challenges we have earlier on in the lifecycle by protecting, preserving, and rejuvenating roads when they are in good condition as well as preparing them before major treatments such as surface dressing takes place.

'This means money can be diverted to those roads that are in urgent need of repair in a targeted way.'

The latest pothole cash is the second of five equal instalments from the £2.5bn Potholes Fund, providing £500m a year between 2020/21 and 2024/25.

It is part of wider funding totalling over £1.1 billion across England in 2021/22, which is nearly £400m down on last year.

RSTA members work on both the local and strategic networks and continue to develop new technology to support the treatment process by making it more effective and efficient.

It has been a strong start to the year for the trade body, which recently celebrated a new member, Highway Data Systems, with the promise of 'more to follow'.

The RSTA has also made progress with its new three-year strategy, the Road Ahead, which aims to build on the comprehensive body of work undertaken by the association since 2008.

Ruairi Charlesworth, development manager at Highway Data Systems said: 'Highway Data Systems are at the forefront of innovation in highways maintenance and construction. We decided that we could adapt our already successful automated materials testing systems for asphalt construction to microsurfacing and the RSTA seemed like the best body to get guidance on how to achieve this technically and to share the innovation with the highways community. We’re delighted to be members and will look forward to participating as fully as possible.'

The company builds hardware and software systems that are used by leading contractors to provide essential quality assurance for the UK’s most important infrastructure.

It is thought to be the only company dedicated to using only automated technology for achieving materials testing processes, with a UKAS accredited materials testing laboratory.

Mr Charlesworth added: 'Construction is suffering from a massive lack of productivity and a skills shortage. McKinsey identified the main reason for this worldwide was a lack of investment in automated and digital technologies.

'In the UK, the productivity and workforce issues are going to be exacerbated by the massive programme of investment in infrastructure from the Government over the next five – 10 years. Highway Data Systems has identified areas that we can help improve through our technology, and we believe that the whole sector will benefit as a consequence.'

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