• 40% markings on Scotland’s motorway and dual carriageways need immediate replacement
  • 40% markings on dual carriageways in Wales need immediate replacement
  • 38% of markings on motorways and 36% on dual carriageways maintained by the Highways Agency in England need immediate or scheduled repairs
  • 25% of markings on HA single carriageways need replacing now; 19% scheduled
  • Markings on 7250km of UK roads measured


The quality of road markings on the UK’s roads is in rapid decline, with the standard of markings on Scotland’s roads almost in free-fall, according to LifeLines, the largest ever survey of 7250km of white lines across roads in England, Scotland and Wales, carried out by the Road Safety Markings Association.


As the percentage of motorway markings classified as needing immediate replacement by the Highways Agency’s own standard doubled from eight to 17 per cent in the past two years, the industry believes the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency are failing to grasp the urgency of the problem.


Strategic road network – England’s best and worst

Motorways and dual-carriageway A roads, managed by the Highways Agency, should be maintained at the highest level, with a rigorous standard imposed for replacement. The survey found the section of motorway with the poorest quality lines is the M6 Wigan-Standish section, where 66 per cent need emergency replacement and, in total, 96 per cent should be scheduled for replacement based on the Highways Agency’s own standard.


Following this, the worst stretches of motorway measured were: M27 Eastleigh; M66 Ramsbottom to Bury; M1 from M69 to A46; and M20 from M25 to Borough Green. Here, up to half of all markings were in the danger zone and needed immediate repair. Among dual carriageways managed by the HA, the poorest is A630 between M1 and Sheffield with 80 per cent of markings completely worn out and a further 17 per cent to be scheduled for replacement.


By far, the best motorway markings were found on the M5 Tiverton to Tewkesbury where 80 per cent of markings make the highest rating. Three HA dual carriageways had exemplary white lines with more than 90 per cent in the top bracket: A361 Barnstaple to Tiverton; A6 Buxton to Derby; and A30 Indian Queens to Exeter.


HA single carriageways – England

Nearly half (44 per cent) of the markings on single carriageways managed by the HA fall into the danger or warning zones. The A49, Standish-Chorley, is the poorest performing single-carriageway A road surveyed.   The standard of road safety markings on this section is so poor that 85 per cent should have already been replaced and a further 10 per cent fall into the red warning category and should now be scheduled for replacement.  The best markings are seen again on the single stretches of the A361 Barnstaple to Tiverton.


Local authority-maintained roads - England

On England’s local authority-maintained single carriageways 22 per cent of markings are in a critical condition and a further 20 per cent need replacing. On average, 25 per cent of markings on dual carriageways are in the danger or warning zone.



Overall, 650km of roads in Wales were surveyed. Forty per cent of markings on dual carriageways in Wales are invisible, and a further 21 per cent should be scheduled for replacement. Ninety-three per cent of markings on the A5156 Wrexham South fall into the danger zone and only three per cent rate as adequate. On single carriageways, the A466 Chepstow to Monmouth has 98 per cent of markings in the worst category.



The picture across 1030km of roads in Scotland is the worst in the UK. Here, 61 per cent of its single carriageway and dual carriageway road markings are barely visible or fall into the warning zone.

Strategic dual carriageways fare little better in Scotland: 90 per cent of markings on the M90 between J1 and J12a northbound have failed and nine per cent are failing; with the A92 Dunfermline to Kirkcaldy, and A8 and A720 Edinburgh west with more than 80 per cent failed markings.


The latest Road Safety Foundation[1] report showed that road markings featured in nine of the top 10 improved roads where fatal and serious collisions dropped from 469 (2001-2005) to 181 (2006-2010) – a reduction of 62 per cent.  High-quality white lines have proved to be a simple, low-cost solution to improving the way a road user can “read” the road, preventing road-side run-offs or providing safe right-turn pockets.


Commenting on the findings of the 2012 LifeLines Report, George Lee, national director of the Road Safety Markings Association, said: “This latest survey shows that in spite of the Highways Agency having a standard by which its markings are measured and maintained, there is clear evidence of significant decline. Standards are being inconsistently implemented, and it would appear that there is little or no monitoring.  Markings in the danger rating on motorways have doubled from  eight per cent in 2010 to 17 per cent to 2012; while the percentage of markings given the highest rating have dropped from 38 per cent in 2010 to just 29 per cent this year.


“The Scottish Government, through Transport Scotland and the Welsh Assembly Government, through Transport Wales, have both signed up to the TD26 maintenance standard so they are as much at fault as the HA in failing to enforce the standard. It is only local government that has no equivalent standard, but we know from experience that where decline is seen in HA-maintained roads, local authorities will follow.”


George Lee went on to outline an underlying concern that the Department for Transport is ignorant of these failings, perhaps because the Highways Agency does not grasp the extent of poor maintenance on the network or because maintenance agents are not delivering the services they are contracted to deliver and the HA is not enforcing its own standards.


Just last month, the Secretary of State for Transport was asked how may miles of the A1 have no road markings, and what his Department's policy is on replacing worn or damaged stretches where road markings are absent.


The reply from Stephen Hammond MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport: “There are no sections of the A1 or A1(M) managed by the Highways Agency that have no road markings.  Where defects to road markings require prompt attention because they represent an immediate or imminent hazard, Highways Agency service providers are required to repair them within defined time scales to ensure safety of the road users. Where there is a case for a more comprehensive renewal of road markings, service providers will develop planned maintenance schemes for consideration by the Highways Agency. The value for money of these schemes will be assessed alongside others to ensure the best use of available funds.”


George Lee commented: “Our survey did not include the A1 along several stretches of the road around Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire this time, but we filmed footage, and this, along with photos of the ‘no road markings’ warning signs in place, are available on our website.


“Our report shows that national standards are not being enforced and that the quality of road markings is declining at an alarming rate. We strongly suspect that the layers of bureaucracy built into the system of maintaining HA roads is stifling results. Taxpayers are paying, but the funds are simply not going on the roads.”



HA Motorways - Bottom Five[2] (starting with worst)


  1. M6 Wigan-Standish
  2. M27 Eastleigh
  3. M66 Ramsbottom-Bury
  4. M1 Leicester M69-A46
  5. M20 M25-Borough Green


HA Motorways - Top Five[3] (starting with best)

  1. M5 Tiverton-Tewkesbury
  2. M3 Eastleigh-Winchester
  3. M69 Leicester-Coventry
  4. M1 Leicester West (southbound)
  5. M53 Chester South


HA Dual carriageways – Bottom Five (starting with worst)


  1. A630 M1-Sheffield
  2. A638 Doncaster-Bawtry
  3. A59 Birkenhead-Liverpool
  4. A419 Swindon-Cricklade
  5. A630 Doncaster


HA Dual Carriageways – Top Five (starting with best)


  1. A361 Barnstable-Tiverton
  2. A6 Buxton-Derby
  3. A30 Indian Queens-Exeter
  4. A14 Ipswich south
  5. A483 Chester-Wrexham


HA Single carriageway – Bottom Five (starting with worst)


  1. A49 Standish-Chorley
  2. A52 Nottingham West
  3. A60 Mansfield-Worksop
  4. A449 Stourbridge-Wolverhampton
  5. A449 Worcester-Moreton-in—the-Marsh and A38 Alfreton-Mansfield  (joint 5th)


HA Single Carriageway – Top Five (starting with best)


  1. A361 Barnstaple-Tiverton
  2. A30 Indian Queens-Exeter
  3. A46 Tewksbury-Evesham and A303 Deptford – Amesbury (joint)
  4. A1079 Beverley South West and A18 Scunthorpe-Broughton (joint)
  5. A5127 Lichfield



Media contacts:


David Armstrong/Rebecca Hadley on 020 7808 7997


LifeLines Report Download

A copy of this year’s LifeLines Report is available at:




Notes to editors:

Road marking measurement

Road markings are measured on their retro-reflectivity. A rating of 150mcd (millicandelas) is the level recommended by the industry, with road markings materials available that ensure markings remain clearly visible even at night in wet conditions. Under Highways Agency standard TD26, if the quality of markings falls below 100mcd, they should be scheduled for replacement, and if the quality rates below 80mcd, they must be replaced immediately. A revision of HA’s TD26 is due next year.


The RSMA is concerned that Highways Agency ratings for road markings have never been formally adopted by local authorities, leading to inconsistent maintenance standards on UK roads and the potential for the significant maintenance shortfalls identified in the RSMA report.


The Road Safety Marking Association represents 95 per cent of the road marking sector. Since its inception in 1975, it has been actively involved in promoting road safety initiatives and is committed to raising the quality of working practices, specifications and products.



[2] Highest percentage below 80 mcd

[3] Highest percentage above 150 mcd