Headlines: September 15th, 2003

A high-tech system for testing the condition of trunk roads and motorways is to be adapted for use on smaller roads to help local councils ensure that potholes are filled in more efficiently. The Department of Transport is making more than three and half million pounds available to adapt the TRACS vehicle.The system allows road surface conditions to be measured from a vehicle moving at the prevailing traffic speed, which means data can be collected safely and without disruption to drivers. Local roads, though, are usually built to different standards from those employed on trunk roads and which TRACS is designed to measure. The way the roads wear out differs so that, for example, the system does not measure edge deterioration which is rare on trunk roads but which is a big factor in smaller roads.

The new funding will be used to research and tackle the technological developments needed to ensure that TRACS, or similar systems, to be intr oduced on sub-principal roads by 2005-6 with further developments in the following year. As part of the best value regime local highway authorities in England are expected to use the systems on their principal roads from next year. Some are already doing so.

The Department says TRACS-type surveys will give a more objective record of road conditions than is possible with the current visual inspections which also make it difficult to make comparisons between authorities.