End to End 2021 – A Road Marking Survey of the Standard of White Lines across the UK’s Strategic and
In March 2020 Highways England issued a new common standard which would form the expectation of the specified standards of White Lines across the UK’s Strategic Road Network in readiness for Autonomous Vehicles. This new standard was also signed up to by the road operators of the high speed networks in Wales and Scotland as well as Highways England. Following on from research conducted by the University of Warwick which indicated that our network is not ready for the Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) which rely on these markings, Safer Highways, one year on from the standard will put the roads across the high speed network to the test with a ‘first of its kind’ survey taking in a carefully selected route across the network from Land’s End to John O’Groats – and back.
The survey will be carried out by member company Quality Marking Services and independently verified (as all of our surveys are) with the aim of providing an unbiased picture of where and indeed if we need to improve the quality of markings across the network in readiness for technological developments.
As we unveil the survey SH Magazine has taken the opportunity to speak to Greg Clark, Managing Director of Quality Marking Services, the company responsible for carrying out the survey and Rachel Brent, Business Director of Safer Highways, to understand the rationale behind why the industry wide collective are carrying out the exercise.
What interested you in getting involved with the End to End project?
GC - I was inspired by a Company in the USA called PPP, Inc who had carried out a project called M.A.A.P. (Measure Across America Project). This was to carry out a mobile retro-reflectivity survey from San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida and back, covering 5,000 miles and 17 states. This reminded me of a classic film I used to watch over and over as a young teen, “The Cannonball Run” staring Bert Reynolds! After visiting the ATSSA conference in New Orleans in January 2020 and seeing the full details of the MAAP project, I thought it would be fantastic to conduct a similar project in the UK between two well-known and recognised landmarks, Land’s End & John O’Groats - End to End.
RB – Our mantra has always been not only to provide an environment for safer road workers but also a safe environment for those who drive on the public highway. The advent of autonomous vehicles and indeed technology which these vehicles rely upon such as road markings mean that before we can effectively roll out these innovations then we need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support them.
Highways England have taken the lead alongside their partners in Scotland and Wales in issuing a standard to support this, however, we need to understand how this has translated to what is actually being laid on the roads.
Why Safer Highways?
GC - I have known Kevin Robinson (CEO) for a number of years and I very much like the approach of Safer Highways and their ethos towards road safety. Safer Highways is an independent organisation, with no bias towards any one individual Company. The focus from the organisation to promote increased safety for the road worker and the road user is well recognised and has been clear through the current #stampitout campaign. Kevin tends to share my enthusiasm for “being different”, and not being afraid to “give it a go”. This is pretty much how I have built our Company over the years, by innovating with different ideas and concepts enabling us to introduce alternative solutions into the market such as our award winning QMS HyperLineTM and our QMS HyperGripTM systems. As such, it made sense to approach Safer Highways to lead with the End to End 2021 project.
Why End to End -
RB – Why not? The standard was agreed by those who manage the high speed network across the UK so our route had to be representative.
GC - The proposed route right from the start of the discussions with Safer Highways had to be thorough and representative. The initial thought was to travel from Land’s End to John O’Groats (LeJog) along the Strategic Road Network in England and Wales then the Trunk Road Network in Scotland, returning back from John O’Groats to Land’s End (JogLe) via local authority routes. However, we felt that as CS 126 was produced for the Strategic and Trunk Road network, we should focus this survey on these networks in both directions, taking in as many area networks and DBFO (Design, Build, Finance & Operate) routes as possible. Which is why on the JogLe, the route zig-zags through the networks before returning to Land’s End.
How long do you expect the project to take and when is it planned?
GC - We have planned to carry out the project in March 2021 to coincide with the 12 month anniversary of the release of the CS 126 document. We plan to complete the estimated 3,000 mile route within seven-to-ten days from start to finish, which is subject to fine weather conditions, so the actual start date will be decided based on forecasts at the time.
What is this new standard - CS 126?
GC - CS 126 is the document that details the inspection and assessment of road markings and road studs which replaced the previous document of TD26/17 in March 2020. The document details, amongst other things, the minimum performance expectations of retro-reflectivity of road markings on the Strategic & Trunk Road Networks in England, Scotland and Wales.
What system will you be using to carry out the project?
GC - We shall be using our QMS LifeLineTM system which incorporates the LaserLux G7 mobile retro-reflectometer from RoadVista. QMS LifeLineTM secured the award of “Road Marking Innovation of the Year” as part of the Road Safety Marking Association’s Industry Awards in 2019, so what better system to use than one that was recognised by the industry itself!
What are the aims of the project, what do you expect to achieve?
GC - The aim is to establish, on a sample of the Strategic and Trunk Road Network, how the road markings are performing, in relation to retro-reflectivity, according to the standards set by Highways England and published in March 2020. With the ongoing developments of autonomous vehicles and the requirement for high performing road markings in dark conditions for these vehicles, and let’s not forget the human driver, to see, it will be interesting to establish exactly how the current markings are performing on these routes against the standards set by Highways England 12 months earlier.
RB- Safer Highways mantra is always to challenge and ensure that we ask the questions which others would not dare to. In this instance we want to actually be able to verify that the road markings on the high speed network are fit for purpose.
As an industry wide independent movement we need to establish the surrender standards and then drive forward and push to improve them; this survey gives us a tool to do this.
Will you be incorporating Automatic Lane Keeping Systems within the project?
GC – It is a little to early to confirm this part at the moment, but it has been discussed between my Company, Quality Marking Services and Safer Highways. Let’s just say that there may be a few more tricks up our sleeves to come out before the project leaves Land’s End!
RB – Greg is being a little modest here, our aspiration is to conduct the survey in a vehicle, which will, where possible, operate under semi-autonomous conditions and we will not only record the empirical facts from what is laid on the surface of the road but also the number of times human intervention is necessary due to the absence of road markings meaning the ALKS system fails.
Aspiration wise we would love to conduct the survey in a fully autonomous vehicle and discussions are ongoing … so watch this space.
How will you be presenting the results and will they be publicly available?
GC - It is still early days to confirm exactly how the report will be published, but the QMS LifeLineTMsystem provides results in Excel Spreadsheets, Graphs, Google Imagery and forward facing video –
We will be launching a website to enable the public to follow the progress in real time and yes, the entire route will be caught on camera! The suggestion at the moment is to present the results at SH Live at the East of England Showground over 22nd and 23rd September 2021 which would be a great event to showcase the results from the project.
As for will they be publicly available, this will be at the decision of Kevin and Safer Highways, but I can see a special “End to End” edition of Safer Highways Magazine at some point in the future in the same way the collective have focussed on PPE and Workplace stress.
One final question, why do this?
GC -Why not do it? Because it has never been done before! Because when I get an idea inside my head, it continues to grow and develop and working with Kevin we both think outside of the box. I have been involved with painting lines on the highway for thirty years and my father for thirty years before me, Kevin was Head of Marketing at the RSMA before founding Safer Highways so we both understand the Roadmarking Industry.