Robot saves ‘hundreds of hours’ of disruption on major roads

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Hundreds of hours of disruption on England’s busiest roads are being avoided due to a robot, it has been claimed.

The machine marks out where white lines need painting on motorways and major A-roads much quicker than humans, according to Highways England.

It recently pre-marked eight miles of the M6 in Staffordshire in just four hours whereas it would normally take two engineers more than a week to complete the same task, the government-owned company said.

The robot has also been deployed on Britain’s biggest road upgrade – the £1.5 billion A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme.

The robot in action on the A14 project (Highways England/PA)
The robot in action on the A14 project (Highways England/PA)

Other projects where the technology has been used include:

– Three miles of hard shoulder on the M4 in Berkshire, saving 27 hours of working time;

– Five miles of the M6 in Warwickshire, saving 77 hours;

– Two miles of the M1 in Leicestershire, saving six hours.

Marking out where white lines need painting on new and resurfaced roads usually involves calculating positions and walking several miles to spray or chalk lines.

In addition to saving man-hours, Highways England said the robot also provides a safety benefit by reducing the time road workers are exposed to risk of an accident on carriageways.

Around 250 vehicles are illegally driven into roadworks every month, according to figures provided by the firm.

Julian Lamb, construction director on the A14 scheme, said: “We’re always looking at innovative new ways of working which can help road users and make our projects more efficient while supporting improved engineering.

“With safety our top priority, the time savings the robot can provide – coupled with removing our operatives from a potentially hazardous situation – make it a great solution.”

Specialist contractor WJ, which adopted the technology, has invested in a second robot to complete more of its work.

WJ Group managing director Wayne Johnston said: “I am passionate about changing the way we work in this industry and the WJ Robotic PreMarker represents a real step change.”