Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

The study of British and Irish roads - their construction, numbering, history, mapping, past and future official roads proposals and general roads musings.

There is a separate forum for Street Furniture (traffic lights, street lights, road signs etc).

Registered users get access to other forums including discussions about other forms of transport, driving, fantasy roads and wishlists, and roads quizzes.

Moderator: Site Management Team

odlum
Member
Posts: 1629
Joined: Tue Sep 12, 2006 15:07
Location: Ireland

Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by odlum » Fri Nov 09, 2012 16:27

I notice on new motorways in Eastern Europe some are using concrete slab surfaces. It makes me wonder why in the UK and Ireland don't we do this? Is it more expensive? Bumpier surface?


I would have thought concrete had far more longevity than tarmac which would cut the cost of maintenance long term.

I have always been curious why we don't use concrete.

User avatar
FosseWay
President
Posts: 12655
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2006 22:26
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by FosseWay » Fri Nov 09, 2012 16:43

We have done in the past -- quite a bit of the M42 is concrete, for example.

I can't answer your question from a cost or engineering perspective, but from the user perspective I'm very glad it's not widely used in the UK and Ireland. It's very noisy and rather bumpy compared to even worn-out tarmac.

User avatar
Chris Bertram
Member
Posts: 9784
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2001 12:30
Location: Birmingham, England

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by Chris Bertram » Fri Nov 09, 2012 16:46

Some of the SW quadrant of the M25 is concrete too, or at least used to be. It's too noisy, just ask anyone who lives near the A50 between Stoke and Derby where there are long stretches of concrete. Yes, it's hard wearing, but it's a bugger to fix if damaged, and the white lines disappear from view quickly in rain as well.
“The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead.” - Douglas Adams.

User avatar
Halmyre
Member
Posts: 1699
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2009 07:47
Location: Fifeshire

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by Halmyre » Fri Nov 09, 2012 17:13

FosseWay wrote:We have done in the past -- quite a bit of the M42 is concrete, for example.

I can't answer your question from a cost or engineering perspective, but from the user perspective I'm very glad it's not widely used in the UK and Ireland. It's very noisy and rather bumpy compared to even worn-out tarmac.
Agreed. Stretches of the M90 were the same, it was always a relief to get past them and back on to tarmac. I also got the impression that you never got quite the same grip on concrete as you did on tarmac.

User avatar
A8000Bob
Member
Posts: 3156
Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 20:02
Location: Kirkcaldy, Fife

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by A8000Bob » Fri Nov 09, 2012 17:16

Yes, it's awful to drive on. Part of the M90 has been patched that many times its like dring on a washboard. The A90 Brechin bypass is just noisy.

User avatar
Burns
Member
Posts: 3385
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 21:37
Location: Dundee
Contact:

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by Burns » Fri Nov 09, 2012 17:57

A8000Bob wrote:Yes, it's awful to drive on. Part of the M90 has been patched that many times its like dring on a washboard. The A90 Brechin bypass is just noisy.
It looks like they're laying tarmac over it in piecemeal stages just now. There were certainly some resurfacing works around junction 5 a few months ago and I'm sure one side of the motorway near junction 7 was resurfaced recently as well. Whether the plan is to resurface all the concrete sections between junction's 5 and 8, I don't know but it does seem to be slowly disappearing.

I've never found the Brechin bypass to be as bad to drive over compared with the M90 but that's probably because it's not as patched as the latter.

User avatar
RichardA626
Member
Posts: 5117
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 22:19
Location: Stockport
Contact:

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by RichardA626 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 18:06

The M60 between junctions 1 & 2 used to used concrete due to the fact it was built on what used to be Heaton Mersey engine shed yard, & there was a lot of ash & clinker in the ground.

It used to be very noisy to drive over.
Beware of the trickster on the roof

User avatar
novaecosse
Member
Posts: 4710
Joined: Tue Nov 21, 2006 23:35
Location: Dundee, Scotland

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by novaecosse » Fri Nov 09, 2012 18:44

Burns wrote:
A8000Bob wrote:Yes, it's awful to drive on. Part of the M90 has been patched that many times its like dring on a washboard. The A90 Brechin bypass is just noisy.
It looks like they're laying tarmac over it in piecemeal stages just now. There were certainly some resurfacing works around junction 5 a few months ago and I'm sure one side of the motorway near junction 7 was resurfaced recently as well. Whether the plan is to resurface all the concrete sections between junction's 5 and 8, I don't know but it does seem to be slowly disappearing.

I've never found the Brechin bypass to be as bad to drive over compared with the M90 but that's probably because it's not as patched as the latter.
Brechin isn't jointed concrete. It's continuously reinforced. Which means its pleases itself where it cracks, and when the cracks join up, bits pop out.
M90 Southbound is in better condition than Northbound, so has been getting concrete repairs and then overlaid with a thin surface course.

IAN
Member
Posts: 608
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2001 19:07

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by IAN » Fri Nov 09, 2012 19:24

Can anyone tell me why it is that even on concrete road sections they seem to use tarmac when the road is on a bridge - e.g. SW M25? Is it because tarmac is lighter so the bridge can be less strong than if concrete is used?

Ian (M5 Driver)

User avatar
Chris Bertram
Member
Posts: 9784
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2001 12:30
Location: Birmingham, England

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by Chris Bertram » Fri Nov 09, 2012 19:27

IAN wrote:Can anyone tell me why it is that even on concrete road sections they seem to use tarmac when the road is on a bridge - e.g. SW M25? Is it because tarmac is lighter so the bridge can be less strong than if concrete is used?

Ian (M5 Driver)
I think that's exactly it. There may be something about heat expansion and contraction involved as well.
“The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead.” - Douglas Adams.

darkcape
Member
Posts: 1589
Joined: Wed Aug 29, 2012 14:54

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by darkcape » Fri Nov 09, 2012 19:30

I think it's because tarmac is more flexible and so will last longer on a bridge with expansion/contraction.
Or, it may just be that they had to resurface the bridge due to maintanence and did it with tarmac as that is now the standard.

Although your issue of weight may also be correct, I've seen in France they use steel reinforcement in their concrete subbases, though I don't know if that was the practice in the UK or not.

User avatar
firefly
Member
Posts: 1763
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 21:28
Contact:

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by firefly » Fri Nov 09, 2012 19:56

odlum wrote:I notice on new motorways in Eastern Europe some are using concrete slab surfaces. It makes me wonder why in the UK and Ireland don't we do this? Is it more expensive? Bumpier surface?
Quite the contrary. Concrete is cheaper, provides the smoother surface and keeps in shape for much longer than asphalt. However, concrete has a disadvantage over asphalt, a decisive one in fact. It takes the cement a full four weeks to hydrate while asphalt cools down and is loadable within hours. The heavily trafficked motorways in Britain rarely allow to close an entire carriageway for two or more months. So they lay asphalt instead.
The newly built motorways in Ireland are a different matter though. I presume that concrete hasn't been considered simply because Britain don't build concrete motorways anymore. Another reason may be that the Irish motorway network is simply too small, so that it isn't economic viable for the Irish construction industry to acquire the necessary concrete mixing and concrete laying machinery.

User avatar
Johnathan404
Elected Committee Member
Posts: 10803
Joined: Tue Feb 01, 2005 16:54
Location: Dublin / Portsmouth
Contact:

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by Johnathan404 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:08

In the UK most, if not all concrete surfaces will be 30-40 years old, which is probably why they are so bumpy, noisy, poorly-drained and generally unsightly.

However one big disadvantage for concrete is that low sun can make it difficult to see the road markings.

It does make an awful noise when you drive on it though.
Last edited by Johnathan404 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:14, edited 1 time in total.
I have websites about: motorway services | Fareham

User avatar
dragonv480
Member
Posts: 1251
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 23:14
Location: Perth and Kinross
Contact:

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by dragonv480 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:10

Concrete also has a much higher road noise associated with it, both for drivers and people living near by
Cheers! Image

Gaz Wilson

Phil
Member
Posts: 1367
Joined: Sun Dec 15, 2002 18:03
Location: Burgess Hill,W Sussex, UK

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by Phil » Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:27

IAN wrote:Can anyone tell me why it is that even on concrete road sections they seem to use tarmac when the road is on a bridge - e.g. SW M25? Is it because tarmac is lighter so the bridge can be less strong than if concrete is used?

Ian (M5 Driver)
I was under the impression that it was done to preserve the life of the bridge deck. Although hard wearing, Concrete surfaces will need redoing eventually - if only for skid resistance etc. By using tarmac on the bridge the surafce can easily be planed off and a fresh layer applied withot adversley affecting the strength of the bridge structure. As you say it may also allow the acyual design of bridge deck to be shallower than would overwise be the case

In the USA I believe its the other way round and they frequently have concreate decks even when the rest of the road is tarmac. However this is done with the intention of replacing the whole bridge deck when required.

Phil
Member
Posts: 1367
Joined: Sun Dec 15, 2002 18:03
Location: Burgess Hill,W Sussex, UK

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by Phil » Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:32

firefly wrote:
odlum wrote:I notice on new motorways in Eastern Europe some are using concrete slab surfaces. It makes me wonder why in the UK and Ireland don't we do this? Is it more expensive? Bumpier surface?
Quite the contrary. Concrete is cheaper, provides the smoother surface and keeps in shape for much longer than asphalt. However, concrete has a disadvantage over asphalt, a decisive one in fact. It takes the cement a full four weeks to hydrate while asphalt cools down and is loadable within hours. The heavily trafficked motorways in Britain rarely allow to close an entire carriageway for two or more months. So they lay asphalt instead.
The newly built motorways in Ireland are a different matter though. I presume that concrete hasn't been considered simply because Britain don't build concrete motorways anymore. Another reason may be that the Irish motorway network is simply too small, so that it isn't economic viable for the Irish construction industry to acquire the necessary concrete mixing and concrete laying machinery.
Very true. Certanly there were quite a few new build roads in the 80s and early 90s to use it, the M20 Ashford - Maidstone, parts of the M40 between Oxford & Warick, the A27 between Havant & Chichester and quite long bits of the M25 - all the way from Sevenoaks to the M3 IIRC.

User avatar
sotonsteve
Member
Posts: 6079
Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2005 21:01

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by sotonsteve » Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:39

Anybody heard of whisper concrete? A concrete surface that is as quiet as low noise asphalt.

On the A12 south of Boreham part of the concrete road surface has been experimentally retextured and is surprisingly quiet. It is a myth that all concrete surfaces are noisy, concrete can be done quietly, but the reason it isn't done in the UK is perhaps because it gained a reputation for being noisy at a time before low noise concrete had been developed, and the stereotype stuck.

A303Paul
Member
Posts: 5222
Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2004 06:49

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by A303Paul » Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:41

Using asphalt avoids things like this and this happening

Sotonsteve, according to the first article I linked to above the A30 from Honiton to Exeter was surfaced with whisper concrete "But surface noise levels were much higher than expected" and the local residents have been up in arms ever since campaigning for an asphalt surface.

andrewwoods
Member
Posts: 462
Joined: Wed Aug 30, 2006 16:23
Location: Poole

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by andrewwoods » Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:52

Johnathan404 wrote:In the UK most, if not all concrete surfaces will be 30-40 years old, which is probably why they are so bumpy, noisy, poorly-drained and generally unsightly.


I remember the original bits of the M40 were in concrete - it was really noisy, even when it was new.

trigpoint
Member
Posts: 427
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2012 19:43

Re: Concrete on motorways - why don't we use it?

Post by trigpoint » Fri Nov 09, 2012 20:53

Johnathan404 wrote:In the UK most, if not all concrete surfaces will be 30-40 years old, which is probably why they are so bumpy, noisy, poorly-drained and generally unsightly.

However one big disadvantage for concrete is that low sun can make it difficult to see the road markings.

It does make an awful noise when you drive on it though.
The A50 (Doveridge bypass section) is late 90s, that is concrete. As others have said it is noisy, I can remember locals putting up banners protesting at the noise the surface caused.

When driving on concrete the constant changes to tarmac on the bridges just make the noise seem worse.

Post Reply