New round of Live Labs road trials gets going

The JCB Pothole Pro is among the machines being tested

ADEPT Live Labs 2: Decarbonising Local Roads in the UK is a three-year, UK-wide £30m programme, funded by the Department for Transport (DfT), that aims to decarbonise the local highway network. Live Labs 2 includes seven projects, grouped by four interconnected themes, led by local authorities working alongside commercial and academic organisations.

The first live trials in this round are taking place across the West Midlands – including Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton –  as well as in North Lanarkshire.

ADEPT is the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (what used to be County Surveyors’ Society until a rebrand in 2010).

One of the four Live Labs 2 themes – The Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads – identifies road materials innovations, provides a centralised hub for live trialling and evaluation, develops a knowledge bank and enables a process to disseminate lessons.

North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) and Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM) are together working with Amey and Colas, drawing on their supplier networks.

The first set of Live Labs’ trials include repair solutions and products from a range of suppliers, including FM Conway, Degafloor, Roadmender, Colas, Meon, Multevo, Instarmac, Viafix, Roadtechs, Velocity, Tarmac, LCM (Low Carbon Materials), JCB Pothole Pro and Thermal Road Repairs. These products have been identified as showing high potential as low-carbon solutions.

The teams repaired 100 potholes using these materials and compared their carbon footprint and technical performance against existing reference solutions. A combination of excavated and infill potholes were repaired across 30 trial sites. Suppliers demonstrated the application of these materials to operational teams, providing insights into their effectiveness in a live environment.

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The programme will continue to monitor and evaluate the performance of the materials for five years with support from researchers at the University of Nottingham, Aston University and the Future Highways Research Group.

Mark Corbin, Transport for West Midland’s director of network resilience, said: “The Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads programme represents a significant step forward in our collective efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Through these trials, we are pushing the boundaries of road materials innovation and paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future. I am proud to be part of this collaborative initiative and excited to witness the positive impact it will have on decarbonising our roads.

“The Live Labs 2 programme is a key driver in our mission to create a more sustainable and resilient local highway network. These trials are a crucial milestone in our journey to achieving this. By leveraging the expertise of our partners and exploring cutting-edge materials and technologies, we are demonstrating our commitment towards a low-carbon future for our roads. I am confident that the outcomes of these trials will pave the way for transformative change in our sector.”

Councillor Kenneth Stevenson, convener of North Lanarkshire Council’s communities committee, added: “This is an exciting development for the UK Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads as we carry out the first trials of low carbon materials that could be used for repairing potholes.

“We are very pleased with the response to our appeal for innovative materials that could help decarbonise the UK road network and achieve net-zero targets, and these trials are the first time we can put new materials and methods to the test. I look forward to seeing the outcomes and sharing these with the industry.”

Amey highways director Andy Denman said: “We have worked with the sector bodies and programme partners to build the Centre of Excellence, bringing knowledge and expertise together to transform our carbon and climate change ambitions and put them into real actions. We’re excited to see the progress over the next few months and how this may shape our sector for the better.”

Daniel Morgan, Colas’ executive director for products & surfacing solutions, said: “The Centre of Excellence for Decarbonising Roads programme is an unprecedented opportunity to drive innovation for the benefit of the sector… These trials represent an exciting step forward in our efforts to achieve our decarbonisation goals, they create the opportunity to explore innovative materials and repair solutions that have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions.”

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