Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from the Road Safety Markings Association

1. Summary of the Main Points

1.1 Localism must be accompanied by rigorous engineering and product standards.

1.2 Road markings represent one of the most cost-effective road safety measures available to local authorities, the Highways Agency and Highways Engineers, as demonstrated by independent research.

1.3 To satisfy its justified call for demonstrable value-for-money road safety solutions, the Government must fund road authorities in an in-depth examination of the correlation between the quality of road safety markings and the safety of roads.

1.4 Unless high-quality road markings are applied and maintained, sophisticated in-vehicle safety technology is in danger of being rendered useless.

1.5 The Highways Agency needs to do more to ensure that its own technical directives and the standards it has set are met.

2. Localism

2.1 The Government’s Strategic Framework document for Road Safety continues to promote the Government’s commitment to an agenda of localism. The RSMA supports the knowledge, expertise and experience of highways engineers operating in local authorities being used to best effect and supports local decisions that are made in light of local and unique circumstances. However, the RSMA is concerned that Central Government’s dogmatic adherence to a localism agenda may result in a lowering of standards in road markings on local authority controlled roads.

2.2 Two-thirds of all Britain’s road deaths and serious injuries are on rural A-roads; those roads under local authority management Yet, of more than 60 single-carriageway A-roads surveyed by the RSMA last year, totalling more than 1,000 miles, on average 14% of road markings are completely worn out; and a further 15% fall into the “amber” zone and should be scheduled for replacement (under the Highways Agency Standard TD26). Just 29% of lines reach the acceptable level of visibility.

2.3 Currently, there is no standard set by the Government to which local authorities should maintain their road markings, nor even a guidance note: although such a standard does exist for roads managed by the Highways Agency. Such technical assurances must be put in place before local authorities are given freer rein. The RSMA has made these concerns known to the Minister of State for Transport, Mike Penning MP, at a meeting in October 2010. The creation of “more room for local flexibility and innovation” as stated in the Framework document must come with a guarantee of standards.

3. Taking Action on Cost Benefit Analysis

3.1 The Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety reiterates the need for value for money stating: “We believe the further measures can be taken that will provide high value for money but we are clear that improvements in road safety need to be robustly analysed, considering all costs and benefits, the pressures on spending and the opportunity cost.”

3.2 Good quality road markings are generally considered by highways engineers and road safety organisations to be one of the most cost-effective methods of improving road safety. The Automobile Association has stated that: “Lives are being saved by some of the cheapest measures in the road engineer’s toolbox: simple white lines … without exaggeration, it is true to say that a simple pot of paint can save lives.” Likewise, the Road Safety Foundation has stated: “The high cost of emergency services, hospitals and long term care for the disabled can often be avoided through little more than the cost of a pot of paint.”

3.3 In the absence of research into the relationship between high collision levels and quality of road markings, the RSMA specifically commissioned road safety markings surveys to be carried out on Britain’s top 10 most dangerous roads as identified in the Road Safety Foundation’s 2010 report on the safety of Britain’s roads. The survey focused on 82 miles of roads that have been the scene of 138 fatal or serious crashes between 2006 and 2008. It found that in all but one section of road (A18) each of the most dangerous roads had worn-out road markings.

3.4 To satisfy the Government’s justified call for demonstrable value-for-money road safety solutions, the RSMA believes that the Government should fund road authorities in an examination of the correlation between the quality of road safety markings and the safety of roads.

4. Vehicle Technology

4.1 In paragraph 3.30 of the Road Safety Framework document the Government states: “we expect vehicle technology will continue to play a key role in reducing casualties … [with] the focus shifting to crash avoidance. This is made possible by the significant advances in computing and sensor technologies and presents a unique opportunity to secure casualty reductions by implementing systems that stop crashes from happening.”

4.2 The RSMA wholeheartedly agrees with the Government’s analysis, however warns that unless high-quality road markings are applied and maintained, the sophisticated in-vehicle technology is in danger of being rendered useless. This warning was given jointly by the highly respected European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) and the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) in June 2011.

4.3 The two heavyweights in road and car safety, EuroRAP and Euro NCAP, joined forces to call on the motor industry and the highways sector to work together to ensure that technologies now available in the showroom reach their potential of saving thousands of lives. In a consultation document issued jointly by the safety organisations, Roads that Cars can Read, EuroRAP and Euro NCAP asserted that the condition of road signs and markings could be the greatest hurdle in reaping the benefits of new in-car safety technology.

4.4 The RSMA agrees with the view of EuroRAP and Euro NCAP and as evidence of the “hurdle” points to its most recent survey of Britain’s road markings which show that a third of the length of Britain’s single carriageway A roads have white lines so worn out that they do not meet standards directed by the Highways Agency for roads under its management. These standards have never been adopted formally by local authorities.

5. Operating within the Demands of the Debt Crisis

5.1 In paragraph 1.12 the Framework document states: “the challenge is for all of us to continue to deliver crucial services and safety outcomes as resources become tighter.” The RSMA believes that professionally applied to nationally recognised and set standards, and well-maintained road markings offer a key resource in delivering “safety outcomes” within the demands of the debt crisis. Often improved or redesigned road markings can achieve a comparable improvement in road safety to expensive engineering and highway restructuring solutions.

6. Improving Road Safety Together

6.1 The RSMA agrees with the sentiments the Government outlines in chapter 3 of the Framework document, “Improving Road Safety Together”. However, the Association feels strongly that if “empowerment of local citizens and local service providers” is to be effective in terms of road safety, it must be introduced hand-in-hand with nationally recognised, set standards for the quality and maintenance of road markings. As stated above, currently there is no standard set by the Government to which local authorities should maintain their road markings, nor even a guidance note. Central standards must be set before national control is lightened. Unless these are put in place safety will be compromised and local authorities may leave themselves open to expensive legal actions as the decision as to whether or not acceptable standards are being met becomes a matter which the courts decide in light of crashes. Localism is democratic and acceptable: loss of control of safety standards is not.

6.2 In paragraph 3.28 of the Framework document where the Government sets out its responsibilities in the Framework, it states that it will “set national standards for safe and responsible driving, and provide national services, such as driving tests, licensing and vehicle checks.” Worryingly, it does not refer to engineering or product standards.

6.3 It is the Government’s role to provide well-researched and informed guidance for local highways authorities when it comes to specifying safety measures. Road markings—that can be seen on a wet night—provide the best, most simple navigation aid to drivers who must to be able to “read” the road at every turn. Without this most modest of investments, motorists will be driving blind.

6.4 The RSMA welcomes the setting up of a comparison website and portal for road safety professionals through which they can share knowledge and experience.

6.5 The RSMA has been at the heart of the development of performance standards for road marking installation and materials to ensure that public procurers have a range of materials with defined quality and performance that can be installed to meet specific highway safety and infrastructural needs, in order that high-performance materials are available to address areas with high danger or accident levels.

6.6 Through active engagement with its client base the road marking sector has, through RSMA, developed operational standards that support client education and advice, sharing and expanding the dissemination of best practice in specification and working practice.

7. HA Strategic Road Network

7.1 The RSMA’s 2010 survey of Britain’s road safety markings found that of A roads and motorways surveyed, one in five falls below the minimum specifiable standard and should be scheduled for replacement while 8% have centre line markings so worn that they are barely visible. Thirty-nine per cent of dual carriageways and 38% of motorways make the recommended rating used by the industry but there has been a significant drop in the quality since 2008, when 69% of markings on duals reached this grade and 49% on motorways.

7.2 It is the RSMA’s view, that the findings of the survey throw doubt on the Highways Agency’s commitment, or control, in maintaining the safety standards of the road markings on its network. Under the Highways Agency Standard TD26, if the quality of markings falls below 100 mcd (millicandelas) per m2 they should be scheduled for replacement and if the quality rates below 80 mcd they must be replaced immediately. It is the RSMA’s case that this is clear that this is not happening. In light of the Government’s Framework, the Highways Agency needs to do more to ensure that its own technical directives and the standards it has set are met. In addition, an amendment to the Specification for Highways Works (SHW) to promote the use of higher specification road markings materials laid 150mm wide should be considered by the Department for Transport. This, believes the RSMA, would provide safer roads with more durable safety markings; improving safety and value for money.

8. About the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA)

8.1 RSMA is the largest specialist trade association in the highways sector, representing more than 90% of the sector by volume it has a total of 95 member companies all of which carry relevant quality assurance as a requirement of membership.

8.2 The RSMA’s activities emphasise quality, health & safety and training and it has invested substantially in these areas over the past decade, in order to help highways companies and organisations to drive up sector standards and deliver higher quality in a safer manner. It has a clear focus on setting standards for its members.

8.3 The association has developed a large NVQ Assessment Centre, qualifying in excess of 800 road marking operatives and has been the first organisation to introduce specialist apprenticeships in the highways sector. The centre delivers or facilitates delivery of a wide range of NVQ and training solutions for roadmarking companies. As a result, 90% of the operative workforce is qualified, and there is a clear career structure now in place for the industry for both management and operatives.

8.4 The association’s activities have a direct impact on the quality and consistency of outputs from the sector and it is anticipated that within 18 months, the roadmarking sector or RSMA members at any rate, will have a fully qualified workforce complemented with a mature training structure providing trainees with the most comprehensive and wide ranging training available in the entire highways sector.

8.5 RSMA is the only organisation which carries out a full condition survey of the UK road markings and has been carrying it out every two years since 2001.

8.6 The RSMA has, as an industry body, imposed standards on its sector and pushed up quality, improved training and defined specific health and safety best practice for the sector moving the sector away from inadequate and often inaccurate blanket health and safety policies.

October 2011

Prepared 18th July 2012