Kier Highways is supporting Highways England in a bid to tackle unsightly graffiti on the bridges and near roads the government-owned company is responsible for.
Using the Innovation and Modernisation Designated Fund, Highways England, in association with Kier Highways and Connected Places Catapult recently held some product testing days at an off-road site at Gravelly Hill Interchange – more commonly known as Spaghetti Junction – in Birmingham.
Graffiti is often offensive and can be distracting for road users. One instance of graffiti removal can require road closures with associated costs of up to £10,000 and offensive graffiti has to be removed within 24 hours which can mean disrupting traffic at short notice.
The aim of the testing is to find products that can successfully remove graffiti quickly and safely but also prevent it from appearing.
Head of innovation at Kier Highways, Tom Tideswell, said: “As part of our maintenance contracts we are required to remove graffiti which is a daily labour-intensive activity. Being part of this innovation project has allowed us to assist in the identification of potential materials/applications out there to remove graffiti more effectively and reduce exposure to our workforce.
“We have witnessed a few really encouraging applications that are also eco-friendly.”
The techniques tested included ‘super repellent’ anti-graffiti solutions, preventative coatings which saw the paint simply wash off with soapy water or rainwater, and another saw the graffiti blasted off with recycled glass pellets.
Those taking part in the trials will be given advice by Highways England technical specialists to understand what further development would need to be made in order to meet the required standards for approved use.
In addition to the trials, Highways England is also running a competition to identify up to six new and innovative solutions focused on graffiti prevention and deterrence. More than a dozen companies have submitted their concepts and products which are currently being considered with the most promising entries to be taken forward to the trials stage.
Highways England Head of Innovation, Annette Pass, said: “We know that people don’t want to see roads blighted by vandalism and have been working hard to detect and remove graffiti. But doing so causes disruption to road users and takes away funds that would be better invested in our roads.
“It also means workers having to go out onto the network to clean it off, potentially putting them at risk.
“Through this initiative we want to identify products that will remove graffiti more effectively than our traditional methods and also those that could prevent it from appearing in the first place.”