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Skanska explores innovative materials to drive greener, more durable roads

Skanska is trialling new materials aimed at reducing potholes and carbon to introduce more durable, futureproof road surfaces across the UK.

Last week, Skanska laid fully recyclable, graphene-enhanced asphalt on a busy main road in Curbridge for Oxfordshire County Council, in a trial that sees this material used on British roads for the first time.

The works, which were delivered by subcontractor Aggregate Industries, involved removal and reinstatement of the existing carriageway to a depth of 150mm over a 750m long section. One lane was replaced using conventional materials, effectively acting as the control measure, while the opposite ‘trial’ lane was resurfaced using the asphalt enhanced by the innovative asphalt modifier developed by Iterchimica. If successful, this new graphene-enhanced material will significantly increase the durability of asphalt used in highways maintenance.

While in Essex, for the first time on the M25, Skanska laid an asphalt surface course between junctions 25 and 26 containing 50% recycled asphalt pavement – five times more recycled material than any other motorway surface, paving the way for greater use of reclaimed materials on UK’s roads.

This work, carried out in partnership with our client Connect Plus and suppliers Toppesfield and FM Conway on behalf of Highways England, is significant as until now, standard practice has been to limit the recycled content of surface courses for motorways and A-roads to around 10%. The introduction of 50% recycled content marks a step change in the use of recycled material on UK roads that could result in huge environmental benefits if adopted across the network.

Jim Daughton, Skanska’s Operations Director, commented: “Exploring these new materials is about taking a new approach to tackling two of the biggest issues facing the highways industry and UK drivers – reducing potholes and improving the quality of our infrastructure for the future while driving down carbon. We’re always looking for new ways to provide best value and our innovative approach enables us to deliver better and more effective projects for our customers and their communities, so we’re delighted to be the first to trial graphene asphalt in the UK and increase use of recycled materials. If successful, these innovative products could transform highways maintenance in the UK, extensively extending the life of key highways infrastructure affected by significant traffic loads, while reducing carbon, which is key as we work with our supply chain to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.”

Jason Russell, Oxfordshire County Council’s Interim Director Community Operations, said: “Oxfordshire County Council is always keen to explore new products and processes to not only improve the network for our residents, visitors and businesses, but more importantly to make sure that we maximise the resources we have and deliver as many improvements as we can. Working with Skanska, we recognised the opportunity to be at the forefront of developing new materials which will enhance the roads in the UK. We have taken the approach that trials are an important factor in pushing the boundaries and without the forward thinking we adopt, we would be behind the development curve and not be offering our residents the best we could offer in terms of spending public funds wisely.”

Paddy Murphy, Managing Director of Contracting at Aggregate Industries, commented: “Working collaboratively with Skanska and the other parties involved has enabled us to successfully supply and lay this innovative material, which incorporates Gipave into our SuperCurve high performance asphalt formula. We hope this trial will go on to prove that this asphalt is more durable and can be used across the UK to improve the lifespan of our roads.”

Andy Dean, Chief Executive Officer for Connect Plus, said: “At Connect Plus, we are committed to reducing environmental impact and to creating a sustainable and durable road network. We are always looking to identify ways of improving roads users’ journeys so we welcome Skanska’s trial of recycled asphalt on one of the UK’s busiest motorways.”

Both new materials will now be monitored and assessed, and Skanska has already begun discussions with Connect Plus to trial graphene-enhanced asphalt on the M25 DBFO network, which could influence the Highways England network, paving the way for more widespread trials across the UK.