In collaboration with Highways England and Roadcare, Kier Highways last year launched an international competition to find a solution to the worldwide issue of removing white lines and ‘ghost markings’ from the road network.

Occasionally, white markings need to be removed when road layouts change. The original lines can sometimes still appear as faint or ‘ghost’ markings, which are particularly noticeable in bright sunshine and can make the road ahead rather unclear for drivers.

The international competition has been funded through the Highways England Designated Road Fun for Innovation. Participants raced to find the most effective solution to the ‘ghost’ markings and one that will reduce damage to the road surface when removed.

Seven new products are being tested on the M5, between junctions 20 and 18 northbound, this will check their skid resistance and performance in the dry and wet. Five systems for removing white lines are also being tested to see if they are more effective than traditional methods.

One method that proved to be simple yet innovative, was the application of a black baseline beneath the white marking. This fills in some of the voids in the road, whilst also preventing the marking penetrating too deeply into the surface and it provides greater contrast between the marking and the road itself which will be increasingly important as autonomous vehicles slowly become introduced to our roads.

Tom Tideswell, the project manager and head of innovations at Kier Highways comments: “Ghost markings are confusing to road users which can lead to poor lane discipline through no fault of their own and in worst case scenarios, they can cause road traffic incidents. During the trials, the five innovative road markings removal systems demonstrated their capabilities and have since provided very positive results which could lead to eradicating this issue and create safer journeys for our road users.

“They will also reduce the scarring/pothole creation by being less intrusive to the carriageway which in turn improves journey reliability by reducing the amount of closures required to carry out repairs in addition to saving money.”

Last year, tests in Madrid, involved markings being subjected to some two million ‘wheel overs’ at a testing centre in order to find the greatest products for skid resistance and performance before they were tested on the M5.

Martin Bolt, lean manager at Highways England adds: “The trial will continue until April, but the results so far have been very promising, and the safety benefits are already clear. We are very optimistic that we have identified some effective solutions to a worldwide problem.

“We know that people find the ghost lines confusing, but these new methods could make this issue disappear, creating safer journeys for drivers. They will also prevent damage to the road surface saving time and money.
“We have certainly gaining a greater insight into the materials and processes we, and the road industry, could be using in future schemes.”

Once testing is complete, the most successful products will be highlighted in game-changing research which will then be shared across the globe. Ultimately, this research will set newer, more advanced standards for the world’s road industry.