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Disappearing lines reveal road maintenance crisis

23 Nov 12 A survey by the people who paint lines on roads reveals a significant decline in the quality of road markings.

The Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) said its Lifelines report revealed proof of a decline in road maintenance.

The survey looked at 7,250km of white lines across roads in England, Scotland and Wales. It found that the section of motorway with the poorest quality lines is the M6 Wigan-Standish section, where 66% need emergency replacement and, in total, 96% should be scheduled for replacement based on the Highways Agency’s own standard.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 40% of markings on Scotland’s motorway and dual carriageways need immediate replacement
  • 40% of markings on dual carriageways in Wales need immediate replacement
  • 38% of markings on motorways and 36% on dual carriageways maintained by the Highways Agency in England need immediate or scheduled repairs
  • 25% of markings on HA single carriageways need replacing now; 19% scheduled
  • On England’s local authority-maintained single carriageways 22% of markings are in a critical condition and a further 20% need replacing.

The standard of markings on Scotland’s roads was described as ‘almost in free-fall’.

Other poor stretches of motorway measured were:

  • M27 Eastleigh
  • M66 Ramsbottom to Bury
  • M1 from M69 to A46
  • M20 from M25 to Borough Green.

The best motorway markings by far were found on the M5 Tiverton to Tewkesbury where 80% of markings scored the highest rating

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Among dual carriageways managed by the HA, the poorest is A630 between M1 and Sheffield with 80% of markings completely worn out and a further 17% to be scheduled for replacement.

RSMA national director George Lee said: “This latest survey shows that in spite of the Highways Agency having a standard by which its markings are measured and maintained, there is clear evidence of significant decline. Standards are being inconsistently implemented, and it would appear that there is little or no monitoring. Markings in the danger rating on motorways have doubled from 8% in 2010 to 17% to 2012; while the percentage of markings given the highest rating have dropped from 38% in 2010 to just 29% this year.

“The Scottish government, through Transport Scotland and the Welsh Assembly government, through Transport Wales, have both signed up to the TD26 maintenance standard so they are as much at fault as the HA in failing to enforce the standard. It is only local government that has no equivalent standard, but we know from experience that where decline is seen in HA-maintained roads, local authorities will follow.”

However, the Highways Agency rejected the findings. A spokesperson said: "We conduct our own surveys to assess the condition of road markings on the strategic road network, to ensure that journeys can be made safely and reliably.

"Where markings on sections of road are found to be sub-standard and require urgent improvement, we take prompt action to remedy them.  In the majority of cases the maintenance of road markings is carried out as part of planned, programmed work.

"RSMA's survey was not comprehensive, and it is not clear how they chose which parts of our network to survey. Furthermore, they misquote the standards for quality of lane markings within their report."

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