Watching paint dry with Britain's road markers

Hitex manufactures the road marking material it lays: a choice of the more traditional thermoplastic markings and cold-cure, durable thermoset markings made of methyl methacrylate, a compound that’s also used as a cement for replacement hips… Not only that, but Hitex also produces so-called preforms; pre-prepared road markings, such as cycle lane symbols, that can be applied like a sticker. Along with the line markings, they’re laid down by L&R Roadlines, another Hitex division and one of the UK’s biggest road marking companies. 

Recent jobs have included marking out 7000 car parking spaces for Jaguar Land Rover’s new export centre in Staffordshire (it took three weeks) and marking the just-opened Newtown bypass in Wales, a road that was 70 years in the making and took Hitex two weeks to white line. 

My time’s nearly up but I’m itching to have a go with the pram. 

“Lay out this roll of preformed thermoplastic that we use for patching white lines under it,” says Haynes, joking. “It’ll look like you’ve just marked the world’s most perfect white line!” 

In the wet, Dominic? Don’t be daft! See, I’ve not poured so much as a drop of white thermoplastic on the road, but after two hours at Hitex, I’m already talking like a seasoned pro.

Line of duty: the government needs to rise up to it

They may look like they’re just painting Tarmac but road marking companies are thinking high-tech. 

“Already, there are small, GPS-guided pre-marking robots that can mark the lines before they’re painted,” says Dominic Haynes, group marketing manager at Hitex International. “They save money and are safer than having an operator in the middle of the road. 

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Stu McInroy, CEO of the Road Safety Markings Association, says autonomous cars will force an improvement in the condition of road markings. 

“Cars will rely on cameras that read road markings to get around. To read them accurately, the markings will need to be in good condition,” he says. “To help, cars could send wheelover data to councils, telling them which roads are busiest and so require closer monitoring of road markings.” 

However, McInroy fears the government hasn’t grasped the value of clear markings. 

“Last October, it allocated £23.5 billion to Highways England for the maintenance and development of the strategic roads network, compared with £3.5bn for major local routes, £420 million for local roads maintenance and £150m to improve local roads at junctions. 


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