To get involved with innovation at Highways England, you can contact us if you can help with our key themes and challenges, and get involved in any targeted research and innovation competitions we either run or support.

Transforming road markings

Highways England

Highways England, formerly the Highways Agency, is a U.K. government-owned company, formed on 1 April 2015, responsible for operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads. This strategic road network extends for some 4,300 miles, which represents 2% of the total road network, but carries 33% of all traffic by mileage and 66% of heavy goods traffic.

We have a 4-year Research Strategy aimed at driving innovation in 8 strategic areas:

  • Managing the use of network capacity
  • Health and Safety
  • Managing an ageing infrastructure more cost-effectively with a greater focus on whole life costs
  • Minimising environmental impact
  • Improving information and data, such as traffic and travel information
  • Technologies: increasing the pace of change in vehicle technology and connectivity/integration with infrastructure
  • Delivery of the investment strategy safely and efficiently, without compromising value for money
  • Meeting changing customer expectations

One of the areas identified for specific research is the application and removal of road markings. We have for some time been concerned about the impact of this procedure, due to driver uncertainty as to the actual lane direction, where removed or masked lines still appear as a contrast to the surrounding surface; plus, cracks and potholes caused when the surface breaks up under removal of the old lines with water-blasting or shot-blasting techniques.

In addition to the cost of removal and application, significant damage to the road surface, caused by the various removal methods used, is adding substantial surface repair costs to the complete scheme. Hence whole life costs are escalating.

Of further significant concern is the whole life cost of road markings, particularly where roadworks require the removal or masking of existing markings, application of temporary lines and their subsequent removal which can add substantial surface repair costs, followed by the re-application of permanent markings.

Research Competition Objective

We are sufficiently concerned by the performance and cost questions raised by the road marking systems currently used that it has made finding a solution one of its key research strategies. Consequently, the company is sponsoring a research project in how to overcome these issues.

We are therefore inviting companies to submit their solutions for a road marking material and removal system which provides the required on-road performance, whilst avoiding or significantly reducing road surface damaged when removed, which will in turn enhance customer experience. Any entrants who do not have a bespoke removal system should specify what system should be used.

Each company can submit a maximum of 2 products per category from the following to ensure a full range of products are considered:

    • Thermoplastic
    • Water-based paint
    • Cold plastics
    • Tapes
    • Other products not specified in the categories above

Research Protocol

The research project quality assessment competition will take place in three stages:

Stage 1 – This is a two-part process;

  1. Participants will be required to complete the application form included with this competition to outline the system benefits that their product will deliver in line with the performance criteria in Table 1 below and demonstrate they are capable of delivering their road marking solution if selected to participate in Stages 2 and 3. There is no qualitative assessment of the application form.  If Participants require support to develop their delivery capability this should be disclosed in their entry.
  2. Participants should also submit (at their own cost) three samples of their road marking material for assessment at the laboratory of AETEC SA at AETEC, C/ Isaac Peral No 1 (Nave 4), E-28914 Leganes, (Madrid), Spain. The products will initially be tested for Retroreflectivity Dry (RL), Retroreflectivity Wet (RW), Luminance Coefficient (Qd), Luminance Factor (β) and Skid Resistance (S).  Any unused samples will be returned.

Stage 2 – The 50 best-performing products from Stage 1 will then go forward for turntable testing at the AETEC facility. An expert jury will evaluate the performance of the road markings using the criteria described below and the best performing solutions (up to a maximum of 8) will go through to Stage 3.

Stage 3 – The successful products will undergo 12-month live road trials dependent upon their safety, quality systems and environmental approvals being acceptable to our specialists.  Those products going forward into Stage 3 will then be evaluated in terms of a combination of (a) their performance using the criteria described below and (b) their removability, and (c) their whole life costs.  The best performing products will be evaluated on their on-road performance and removal with a published report detailing the outcome.

Stage 1 Performance Criteria

  1. Participants must complete the application form.
  2. Participants must include an explanation of how
    1. their product would be applied to the road surface;
    2. subsequent removal of the markings, according to the manufacturer’s method statement, will cause little or no damage to the road surface
    3. removal or masking of the road markings will not leave a contrast line on the surface which can be misinterpreted by drivers causing deviation from the direction of travel lanes
  3. No preference will be given to anyone type of marking, whether designed to be temporary or permanent, with innovative and/or new solutions particularly welcome.
  4. The following information/data is also required to be included as part of the Participant’s submission:
    • Description and history of the Participant’s organisation and any associated companies, including safety and quality systems and environmental approvals not addressed in the entry form. This is included to avoid saturation from any individual companies.
    • Description of the road marking material product being submitted for the competition with composition breakdown (including where applicable Resin %, Ti02 %, intermix glass bead %). This will be confirmed in the competition by comparison against fingerprint test at the relevant point in the process
    • Participant’s detailed method statement for material application including, but not limited to, where applicable, temperature, dosage rates, thickness, drop-on glass bead type and quantity, mixing time etc. This will be used to consider Health and safety implications and consistency of application from the test site to live site.
    • Declaration of the level of performance expected to ensure that minimum standards will be met.
    • Participant’s detailed method statement for the removal of the material at the end of the test period. This will be used to assess Health and Safety impact.
    • Declaration of Sustainability – the Participant’s assessment of the environmental impact of the product, including chemical, glass or plastic content and handling, recyclability, packaging disposal etc. for both application and removal. It will also include the labour, plant and materials resource required for installation and removal.
  5. Health & Safety Assessment – We have a key objective to reduce risks for users and workers on the network. Solutions will consequently be assessed for their health & safety and risk impact.
  6. Participants are invited to submit their online application to be included in the research via the Highways England Innovation Portal – link – Ruth. The final date for entries is1700hrs (Greenwich Mean Time) on 30 October 2018.  Entries received after that time will be disregarded.   Applications received will be acknowledged via email, by 21 November 2018 with a unique reference number for each product entered.  If multiple entries of the same product are submitted then only the original manufacturer’s sample will proceed.


  1. Three samples of the material, traceable and authenticated to be from the same production batch, are to be sent at the Participant’s expense and risk directly to AETEC SA, AETEC, C/ Isaac Peral No 1 (Nave 4), E-28914 Leganes, (Madrid), Spain marked on the external packaging as “Highways England Road Markings Testing” with the unique reference number clearly marked on the outside of the packaging. One of the samples will be selected at random and used to prepare the test slab for Stage 2 testing (see below); a second sample will be retained for composition analysis, fingerprinting and future quality control.  Samples should be received at AETEC by 5 December 2018 at the latest.  Samples received after this date will be excluded from the competition.  Unused samples will be returned.
  2. By prior appointment, Participants are welcome to attend at AETEC at their own expense during the preparation and application of their samples to the test slab and turntable. This will be on the relevant date within our programme which will not be altered.
  3. Total entries going through to Stage 2 will be limited to 50. To achieve this, each sample submitted will be tested against the criteria in Table 1 below.  Samples will be tested on the same day that they are applied.
    Table 1

    Performance Criteria Performance Level Measurement
    Retroreflectivity Dry (RL) R3 ≥ 150 mcd
    Retroreflectivity Wet (RW) RW2 ≥ 35 mcd
    Luminance Coefficient (Qd) Q2 ≥ 100
    Luminance Factor (β) B3 ≥ 0.4
    Skid Resistance (S) S1 SRT ≥ 45
  4. The samples will then be ranked based on the extent to which they exceed the above performance criteria from 1 (best performing) to n (worst performing) where n is the total number of samples submitted to the competition. See Example 1 below.  Any products that fail to meet the minimum standard in any of the categories will be excluded.  These rankings for each of the performance criterion (Retroreflectivity Dry, Retroreflectivity Wet, Luminance Coefficient, Luminance Factor and Skid Resistance) will then be combined to give an overall performance rating for each sample.
  5. A maximum of the best performing 10 products in each of the following categories:
    • Thermoplastic;
    • Water-based paint;
    • Cold plastics;
    • Tapes;
    • Other products not specified in the categories above or a system using a combination of those above;

will then proceed to stage 2.  If less than 10 products are submitted in any category then Highways England reserves the right to take more than 10 products from another category through to stage 2, up to a total maximum of 50 products.

Example 1

For example, if the following results were achieved

Retroreflectivity Dry (RL) ≥ 150 mcd Retroreflectivity Wet (RW) ≥ 35 mcd Luminance Coefficient (Qd) ≥ 100 Luminance Factor (β) ≥ 0.4 Skid Resistance (S) SRT ≥ 45
Sample A 142 37 101 0.4 46
Sample B 155 40 110 0.43 48
Sample C 195 41 128 0.42 55
Sample D 180 36 122 0.43 49

This equates to the following rankings

Retroreflectivity Dry(RL) Retroreflectivity Wet(RW) Luminance Coefficient (Qd) Luminance Factor (β) Skid Resistance (S) Overall Performance Rating (total from
previous four columns)
Overall Performance Position
Sample A Fail to meet minimum standard of 150 mcd 3 4 4 4 Excluded due to failure to meet minimum criteria in one or more categories Excluded due to failure to meet minimum criteria in one
or more categories
Sample B 3 2 3 1 3 12 3
Sample C 1 1 1 3 1 7 1
Sample D 2 4 2 1 2 11 2
  1. In this example sample, A will not proceed any further in the competition as it failed to meet the minimum standard. Sample B achieved an aggregate score of 12 points across all categories, Sample C. an aggregate score of 7 marks and Sample D an aggregate score of 11 marks.  Sample C has therefore achieved the best overall performance, sample D the second best and sample B the third best.

Stage 2  Turntable Testing of Samples at AETEC SA in Madrid

  1. Stage 2 of the competition involves successful stage 1 Participant’s samples of their road marking product being tested on the AETEC SA turntable by up to 2 million wheel-overs. Samples will be applied to a test plate in accordance with Participant’s instructions.
    The plate is the darker area from the bottom left corner that makes up the majority of the picture.

    The plates (reference RG3) have been selected to provide the closest match to a typical UK road surface as shown below.  The plate is the darker area from the bottom left corner that makes up the majority of the picture.

    Table 2
    The samples will be tested at 10 000, 100 000, 200 000, 500 000, 1000 000 and 2000 000 wheel passes for:

    Performance Criteria Performance Level Measurement
    Retroreflectivity Dry (RL) R3 ≥ 150 mcd
    Retroreflectivity Wet (RW) RW2 ≥ 35 mcd
    Luminance Coefficient (Qd) Q2 ≥ 100
    Luminance Factor (β) B3 ≥ 0.4
    Skid Resistance (S) S1 SRT ≥ 45
    Marking Retention on Road ≥ 80%
  1. Any product that fails to meet the minimum standards at any part of the testing will be excluded from continued participation in the competition. At the end of the 2 million wheel passes, the remaining products will be ranked on their performance as in Stage 1 for each interim testing point (10 000 wheel passes, 100,000 wheel passes and so on up to 2 million). These scores will be combined and a ranking list established of the best performing products. If the results shown in Stage 1, Example 1 were achieved at 10 000 wheel passes, the combined scores for samples B-D would then be added to their combined scores at each testing point to achieve an overall performance ranking list. Each sample tested during this stage will receive an AETEC testing certificate.
  2. At the end of the 2 million wheel-over period, the road marking materials will be removed from the test slabs according to the Participant’s submitted method statement. The results will be measured and recorded in relation to CEN/TR 16958:2017, according to percentage of material removed. Any products not removed to the standard of annex B, reference photograph 9 (0-5% material remaining) will be deemed to have failed and will not progress further in the competition.

By prior appointment Participants are welcome to attend AETEC
at their own expense during this phase.

  1. Those products still in the competition will then be subject to a sand patch test in accordance with Annex C of CEN/TR 16958:2017. Once completed they will again be ranked by performance with the best performing achieving a ranking of one, the second best performer achieving a ranking of two and so on with the lowest performing of the remaining n products achieving a ranking of n. These scores will then be added to the rankings achieved for the performance from the AETEC testing to give a final order of combined performance.
  2. The results will at this stage be evaluated by the expert jury, based on the actual performance figures arising from the AETEC test combined with the results for the removal testing. Evaluation of the environmental and health & safety impacts of the products will also be considered. If any products fail to meet the requisite environmental standard they will not proceed any further. Equally, any company that fails to provide evidence of safe systems of working for their products that are acceptable to Highways England will be rejected.
  3.  The highest scoring solutions for each of the five product categories (thermoplastic, water-based paint, cold plastics, tapes and other products not specified using a combination of these product types) will be taken forward to Stage 3 as long as their quality and safety systems are acceptable to Highways England experts and their products meet environmental standards. If there are any of these five product categories not represented at this stage due to failure at any part of the testing, the jury may supplement the remaining products with next highest performing products from the overall performance table to give a maximum of eight products going forward to Stage 3. All products and application and removal systems that are potentially going forward will have a GG104 assessment completed at this stage.
  4. Details of the products selected to go through to Stage 3 will be published by Highways England, with the successful products being named in the report. Results from the other solutions tested at AETEC during Stage 2 will not be published. Each of the Stage 2 Participants will, however, receive a copy of their own results, available for them to use in the future as they wish.

Stage 3 – On-Road Testing and Whole Life Costs

 On Road Testing

  1. The best performing products from Stage 2 (as set out in Stage 2 paragraph 5 above) will go forward for live road trials on our strategic road network over a twelve-month period (to cover all seasons).
  2. Each product in Stage 3 will be allocated a portion of the live road on which to apply its marking products according to our standard specification (Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, Volume 8 Section 2, Part 2 TD 26/17).
  3. We will provide details of its appointed contractors responsible for maintaining the allocated section of road, it is however the Participant’s responsibility to instruct the Contractor as to how the product is to be correctly applied
  4. The Participant may ask us for permission to access the highway in order to apply the product themselves or using their own specified contractor. Permission to do so is at our discretion and will be subject to the Participant or its contractor’s strict observance of any instructions given and all operational and health and safety protocols that apply.  We may revoke the permission at any time without being required to give reasons.
  5. Where possible, two application slots on the live network will be allocated to each product depending upon programme of works, one to be applied in winter and one in summer, products must be applied in both slots in order to assess the effect of different seasons on the solution. The length of these trials will be dependent on road/scheme availability. But each product will be given a similar sized area with the trial period being 12 months.
  6. At the time of the road marking applications we, or our representatives, will collect a sample of the actual material applied for comparison to the original control samples provided in Stage 2. Any material variation may cause the product to be excluded from the Stage 3 assessment process.
  7. The road trial will run for 12 months after application, during which time the products will be regularly monitored, measured, recorded and assessed by us according to our performance requirements in line with the criteria set out in Table 2. Final measurements will be taken at the end of the trial period, prior to removal. At the end of the trial period a selected length of each solution will be removed according to the Participant method statement submitted in Stage 1.  After removal, the road will be assessed for the percentage of road marking material remaining, surface damage, colour contrast between the area where the line was removed and the surrounding road based upon CEN/TR 16958:2017 standard.
  8. If any product fails during this phase of the project, the markings will be removed and replaced at no cost to the supplier.
  9. Factors that will be taken into account when evaluating the overall performance of the road marking will include those tested at all stages:
    • Health & Safety impact of the solution.
    • Efficiency and effectiveness of the application procedure specified by the Participant.
    • Road marking material performance vs Highways England requirements under the three imperatives, Safety, Customer and Delivery.
    • Efficiency and effectiveness of the removal process specified by the Participant.
    • Impact on the road surface of the application and removal process.
    • Colour contrast of the test area vs surrounding road after removal.
    • Environmental impact assessment.
    • Lifetime cost analysis.

Whole Life Costs

  1. The Stage 3 evaluation will also include an evaluation of the price of the Participant offer. Participant’s at Stage 3 must provide a breakdown of the expected per linear metre cost of the solution being applied during the on-road trial.  This will include the road marking material itself, its application, maintenance, removal, disposal and all associated storage and environmental costs.
  2. Stage 3 will be evaluated by an expert jury selected by us and each Participant will be given an overall report based on a combination of the on-road test and with consideration of the product’s whole life costs. This will be based on the performance criteria used throughout and a removal test at the end of the twelve month on-road testing.


  1. A maximum of eight products with the highest score after Stage 3 will become eligible to be supplied as road marking products to us and our supply chain. This is not an exclusive right and we reserve the right to make other products available at our discretion regardless of whether they have participated in this contest.
  2. This will be conditional upon the Participant passing a Factory Process Control audit carried out by a suitably approved independent body. The initial audit will be at our expense. Audits will be subsequently carried out annually by the appointed approval body, at the cost of the Participant, to ensure continued compliance with quality procedures and product specification.
  3. The results of the research programme will be published at the end of Stage 3 of the evaluation process.
  4. It is envisaged this whole process will take 18-24 months. Any innovative solutions developed outside of the competition time limits can be submitted for consideration

Webinar Q&A

We held a webinar on 5 October 2018 to give an overview of why the competition is being held and how it will operate. Below is a list of questions raised at the event and their answers. They’ve been organised by the three stages of the competition.

Stage One

Samples Aetec: Who will do the application of structured / agglomerates on the sample plates? (Aetec is not able to do this in the Laboratory).
If Aetec do not have the capability to apply bespoke application patterns at the testing facility they will be carried out at the supplier’s site with members of the jury in attendance to witness the application.

Is the method of application restricted e.g. spray, screed, extrusion?
No, we are seeking innovation and are open to new ideas, however, safety, time and speed of application are important, and these will be judged in line with the competition rules.

How and where will the products be tested initially? On the road or at Aetec on sample plates.
Stages 1 and 2 will be carried out at the Aetec facility in Madrid. Stage 3 will be carried out on road in England.

Stage Two

Is removability part of the Aetec test?
The removal method is the manufacturer’s choice and it is their responsibility to provide the resource to carry out the work. This can be done by themselves or with a partner company.

Road tests: Who will do the removal of the road markings? Should the manufacturer organize this like the application (contractor from UK or own company).
The removal method is the manufacturer’s choice and it is their responsibility to provide the resource to carry out the work. Where possible this should be done at Aetec premises but can be done by the manufacturer themselves or with a partner company at an agreed location. This detail will be discussed and agreed with successful manufacturers at the relevant stage. Sand patch testing will be carried out under controlled conditions at Aetec. In stage three the removal will be carried out on site under live traffic conditions using the previously agreed method/system.

Stage Three

In the final stage, how much weight does each category have that the jury is assessing? I.e. is the efficiency and effectiveness of application weighed higher than the colour contrast after removal? Or is everything weighed/judged equally?
The scoring mechanism set out in the rules has no weighting.

Submission Requirements

1. Please download and complete the application form to declare your interest in participating in the Transforming Road Markings Trial.

2. Upload your completed application form to the submision form below.

Transforming road markings application form

Application Checklist

When submitting your application please ensure you have completed all the steps, included all the required information and attached all the documentation below.

Any omissions may lead to your entry not being considered further for the competition

Download competition checklist

Submission form

Once you have completed the application form upload it here and complete the entry form

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