Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Balfour envisions self-healing surfaces to end all roadworks

highways england generic

Self-healing roads manufactured offsite and embedded with solar panels are the future of England’s major highways, making roadworks and closures obsolete, according to a Balfour Beatty study.

In its Customer Driven report, Highways England contractor Balfour Beatty set out its vision for making the roads industry more customer-focused and ready for self-driving cars.

The contracting giant revealed its plan to “do away altogether” with roadworks and widening schemes which delay drivers, instead relying on self-healing materials, 3D-printing and offsite construction to keep highways in good shape.

With the rise of autonomous vehicles, Balfour’s report predicts that roads will take on a new look, doing away with signage and gantries and instead embedding solar panels into road surfaces.

In the report Balfour Beatty said: “We must provide information the road user can trust to ensure that they get the safe, stress-free journey they want.

“In the medium-to-long-term, we are planning how to do away altogether with the roadworks we know customers hate – or at least how to keep them to a minimum and to ensure that they cause as little disruption as possible. This could be based on a combination of increasing the use of offsite, modular ‘click and fit’ approaches; using mobile factories which are able to be moved around; 3D printing; and the use of self-healing surfaces.”

However, the report warns that such a drastic overhaul will likely generate serious costs, meaning Highways England’s Strategic Road Network (SRN) should become self-financing by selling electricity to the grid, among other measures.

The report added: “In an understandably risk-averse industry, it can sometimes be hard to build a groundswell of support to make changes such as these, so we will stand ready to lend our support and expertise to bringing about change.”

Highways England has already pledged to become more customer-focused in its next road investment period running from 2020-2025. Speed limits through roadworks have already increased from 50mph to 60mph, and better signage is giving drivers more accurate journey estimations. 

Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.


Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.