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Lasers check crumbling roads

09 Jan 2003

Lasers are assessing the condition of Scotland's entire 56 000 km road network.

In a project costing in excess of EURO 4.5 million, lasers are being used to find the worst defects in Scotland's 56 000 km road network. The Scottish Road Maintenance Condition Survey (SRMCS) will take four years to complete and will highlight the sections of road most in need of repair.

"The aim of the project is to give an accurate picture of the condition of the public road network," Jim Valentine, the SRMCS project manager told Optics.org. "This will lead to informed decision making and allow funds to be target the areas of greatest need."

Visual inspection has been used in the past to assess roads, but Valentine says this is a subjective process that can lead to inconsistencies. A laser-based system that scans the road applies the same standards and gives repeatable information to monitor deterioration trends. These systems are also safer and more cost-effective than visual methods.

The scanning system will measure wheel-path rutting and the road's surface texture and profile using the transport research laboratory standard survey method. The system, which is being supplied by UK-based contractor WDM, is said to work at speeds up to 50 km/h.

To date, 32 Scottish councils have subscribed to the project and initial results are encouraging. According to Valentine, Clackmannanshire's entire road network was surveyed to gauge how much of the network the machine could reach. "The machine achieved in excess of 99% coverage," he says. "It should be possible to keep visual inspections to a minimum."

Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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