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The cost of road closures – why speed matters

Local road networks are vital to both national and local economies. Almost every journey begins and ends on local roads. Hence any disruption to the local road network will have knock-on effects on businesses and individuals in nearby communities and further away.

National Highways estimated in 2021 that delays on the strategic road network cost the economy around £3bn a year. Of these delays, roadworks account for around 15%, incidents such as breakdowns and collisions account for 10% and congestion causes nearly half of the delays, according to National Highways.

There are no estimates for the collective cost of delays on our local road network, but we do know that the impacts for the immediate economy can be far reaching. Journeys to work will be slower, as will the delivery of goods or services that require road transport, causing a loss of productivity.

Local retailers will be affected by any closures or disruption to local roads. And it’s not only shops that are located on the road where works are taking place. If people can see that their journeys may be disrupted due to roadworks on the way or congestion caused as a knock-on effect, they may very well cancel that journey and the shop will lose out on sales.

Congestion to surrounding roads can increase the likelihood of accidents and it can slow down active journeys on foot or by bike as well. There are also harder-to-calculate costs associated with negative effects on health and wellbeing. And the cost of carbon, which will become a financial cost in the near future – if it isn’t already.

Rock and a hard place

When it comes to carrying out road maintenance activities, such as pothole repairs, local authorities can find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Poor road surfaces cause costs to individuals, businesses and the councils themselves through claims for car damage. But the disruption caused by the repair works will also impact on the local economy.

It makes sense, then, to minimise the time taken to carry out repair works. Although Thermal Road Repairs’ technology was designed with longevity of the repair as the main goal, one of its other benefits is that it is far quicker than traditional methods of pothole or defect repair.

Because the Thermal Road Repairs process involves heating up the failed material in and around a pothole, mixing it with a small amount of hot asphalt and then compacting the area, it takes less time than a traditional repair. Disruption is minimised further since there are no vehicle movements for taking away failed material that has been cut out, or for bringing in new materials – since the small amount of fresh asphalt is carried on the one vehicle needed for the operation in a hot box.

In time terms, an average pothole takes around 10 minutes to repair using Thermal Road Repairs technology, compared to 30 minutes for a traditional repair. And unlike other swift processes, it is designed to last as long as the surrounding road surface, since the heating, mixing and compacting processes mean that the repair is seamless, with no joints that will be weak points, which are likely to fail again.

Clearly, the timing of roadworks can also have a huge impact on the disruption a road or lane closure can cause, and the ensuing cost to communities and society. When repairs take one-third of the usual time, it may be possible to schedule them at a time of day which minimises disruption – for instance, avoiding school and work journey slots on a residential street.

Thermal Road Repairs technology has been deployed by local authorities and other road owners, such as port operators, during the night. Because it does not require noisy tools to break out damaged concrete, or multiple vehicle movements, it can be safely used without disrupting anyone’s sleep.

Though rarely calculated, the impacts of roadworks including increased congestion and air pollution can be significant, especially if they are adding to already high levels. With very low noise and air borne dust, and no diesel vehicles or tools – even the roller can be electric – we are confident that Thermal Road Repairs’ impacts here are low.

The other major cost – and likely to be a rising one - is carbon. As net zero target dates approach, the cost of offsetting carbon will move accordingly. Here, our technology will help too since it produces around 85% lower carbon emissions than a traditional repair.

In conclusion, the wider costs to communities of disruption due to road repair should be outweighed out by the long-term benefits. However, this would require any repair method to be long lasting – so that the costs are not accrued all over again in the short term.



Thermal Road Repairs: Decarbonising the asphalt repair industry






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