Total UK, Tarmac and Highways England put new bitumen binder on long-term trials on A43

A new bitumen binder which aims to help increase the lifespan of roads is being put to the test in a long-term study.

Total UK has partnered with Highways England and Tarmac to resurface a section of the A43 dual carriageway in Northamptonshire, with Total Styrelf Long Life.

Three sections of the road have been surfaced, the first with a standard bitumen, the second with Total Styrelf eXtreme 100 and the third with the Long Life product. But the complexities in tackling the issue are reflected in the length of the trial – which could run up to 15 years. 

Laboratory tests showed the new binder is more resistant to the elements and oxidises more slowly. In this project, Total UK will take samples from each section of the carriageway at regular intervals to measure the ageing performance and key characteristics of the bitumen, and to understand the degradation caused by oxidation and UV exposure. 

More durable road surfaces that require fewer repairs lead to lower carbon emissions caused by maintenance work, less money needing to be spent on maintenance and less disruption for road users. Providing asphalt to resurface a mile of single lane carriageway, not including transport to site, can produce up to 26.5 tonnes of CO2, the company said.

The new technology has previously been tested in the laboratories of Total, and on sections of road in Holland and Germany, but the A43 trial is the first time it has been used worldwide with such high traffic levels.

Mike Wilson, Highways England’s Chief Highways Engineer, said: “We’re always looking for innovative ways to help us keep England’s motorways and major A-roads in good condition. The ultimate priority for us is safety so we invest in new technology and materials to keep those using the roads safe. Longer lasting roads means fewer roadworks, less disruption for motorists and a more sustainable network for everyone.”

Rick Ashton, Market Development Manager at Total UK, said: “At Total UK our key focus is Sustainability through Durability. These long-life binders will contribute to achieving clients’ decarbonisation goals by reducing roadworks, saving manufacturing, transport and installation energy, and the associated emissions. This trial paves the way for enhanced highways asset management and predictive deterioration modelling for Highways England.”

Brian Kent, Technical Director at Tarmac, said: “What we have in this case is essentially an anti-ageing cream for roads – just as these products are designed to reduce and prevent the signs of fine lines and overall ageing of the skin, the new bitumen being trialled on the A43 will protect the road surface,” he said.

“It not only has the potential to offer improved value for money to the public purse, but it also contains properties to increase the overall lifespan of roads. Through preventing cracks to the surface of the road caused by elements such as air and water, the longer life bitumen has the ability to reduce disruption, deliver long-term carbon savings and importantly help network operators to better manage their assets.”

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