Resurfacing a busy hill with high friction, anti-skid fibres under great time pressure was the recent challenge Ringway Group faced. Having been the maintenance contractor for the UK county of Kent for the past 11 years, it had tackled a multitude of projects. But Bluebell Hill on the A229 needed a bespoke and exceptional solution.

Ringway’s parent company Eurovia is the largest road works company in Europe with a focus on sustainable development, road safety and infrastructure management. In 2000, it merged with Jean Lefebvre and now operates as part of the Vinci Group. In 2007, Ringway generated revenue of over €600m, largely from its long-term contracts for road maintenance in urban areas. During this year the company held over 45 long-term contracts, including a €42.2m contract for road maintenance in London and one with Kent Highway Services.

Along with conducting conventional maintenance issues, Ringway generates new solutions to unique problems, as was the case with Bluebell Hill. This stretch of road suffers from very high traffic, which meant the resurfacing solution had to be not only incredibly durable but also rapidly laid because pressing time constraints required the work to be completed over a weekend.

Kent Highway Services project manager Andrew Burton says that a new formula containing a mix of Ringway products including Gripfibre and thin surfacing technology UL-M was employed to fulfil the Bluebell Hill requirements.

“Ringway Technical Centre, based in Warrington, came up with a unique solution for this project by developing an innovative multilayer surfacing for the works ensuring long lasting durability,” says Burton.

Eurovia’s focus on technology

Cutting-edge technology was essential in making sure all the requirements of Kent Highway Services were met. Highways Authority Product Approval Scheme (HAPAS)-approved Gripfibre was developed by Eurovia and is a patented microsurfacing system combining synthetic fibres, polymer-modified emulsion and selected aggregates in a high-performance thin overlay. This material now covers over 1.5 million square metres of road surface in the UK. It is popular because not only is it a highly durable and cost-effective product but as a cold process it also makes up part of Eurovia’s commitment to the environment. Other benefits include reduced noise levels and a high resistance to abrasion.

UL-M, also developed by Eurovia, covers over 14 million square metres in the UK on roads such as the M25, M60 and the A1/M1 link. Ringway is its HAPAS-approved manufacturer. UL-M is a bituminous material made up from a family of thin surfacings – all of which have the same polymer-modified binder, Evatech. UL-M is not only economical (layers can be from 15mm to 40mm) and durable, it also reduces noise levels, is skid resistant and able to limit spray in wet weather.

“We needed to fully close the road to minimise the impact on the network users and yet ensure local businesses near the site were disrupted as little as possible.”

UL-M’s durability has been tested extensively in the past. For example, when it was first implemented onto the highly trafficked A52 at Roo Hill in North Staffordshire it was tested over a three-year period. According to findings by Jean Lefebvre, at the end of this time period the overall appearance was classed as ‘very good’ and the damaged area ‘less than 0.1%’ of the entire UL-M-coated surface.

Ringway’s research found that a combination of five layers of materials was required for Bluebell Hill’s resurfacing problems. The first 40mm layer consisted of 14mm of Fibrovia, an asphalt concrete with high binder content that is very effective on projects with a short time frame. Next, a layer of Flexiplast – a dual-layer complex with low thermal sensitivity and elastic properties to prevent reflective cracking – was added. A 10mm layer of Gripfibre followed before an additional 40mm layer of Fibrovia binder course. The final layer was 14mm and made up from U-LM with its high skid resistance and smooth riding qualities.

Project management

It was not just a question of getting the combination of layers right at Bluebell Hill, one of the greatest challenges of this project was that the work would be completed in time for traffic to flow on Monday morning. This required use of products that would take effect rapidly and a heavy work schedule.

“There were a number of organisational issues to be solved,” Ringway’s Steve Clark said at the time. The most obvious was that narrow stretches of the road would result in a temporary closure. “We needed to fully close the road to minimise the impact on the network users and yet ensure local businesses near the site (a golf course, a diner and a petrol station) were disrupted as little as possible. We therefore chose a short working window over one weekend, enabling us to put the road back into service by 5am Monday morning.”

The closure of the road was announced on the local radio and an hourly task scheme was worked out with the workers. A-24 hour breakdown service was employed to remove any vehicles that had difficulties on the alternative route to ensure consistent traffic flow.

“Everyone within Ringway is a team player with a positive and proactive approach to challenges.”

Delivering results

This multilayer solution planed and resurfaced approximately 38,000m² in around 56 hours, all by the Monday-morning deadline, making the project a huge success. All of Eurovia’s formulas are tested at the Ringway Technical Centre in Warrington to ensure that they meet the UK’s requirements and it is this detailed knowledge of the materials that enables the team to create bespoke solutions to solve unique road surfacing challenges.

Ringway’s 25 years’ experience, its ability to create individualised solutions, plus the synergy between Ringway and long term contractor Kent Highway Services ensured that this project was completed on spec and to deadline.

“Everyone within Ringway is a team player with a positive and proactive approach to challenges,” says Clark.