The Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories (FEHRL) has set itself the challenge to develop a truly inspiring vision for how roads will be built and maintained in the 21st century.
The result is the Forever Open Road - a revolutionary concept that brings together the best of what we have today with the best of what is to come, and produce the 5th generation road. A road that is adaptable, automated and climate change resilient, based upon a concept for building and maintaining roads that can be applied whether motorway, rural or urban, and regardless of region or country.
There are three elements to the Forever Open Road:
- The adaptable road
- The automated road
- The climate change resilient road
The road adapts to future maintenance, changing capacity demand and vehicle manufacturer needs; it automatically provides in-built vehicle guidance, as well as travel information and performance measurement; it is built from sustainable materials; and harvests, stores and uses energy, copes with excess water and temperature change, and is able to clean and repair itself.
The overall aim is for roads to be Forever Open, with minimum intervention for repairs and widening or for new installations or for dealing with weather hazards. The key to this new approach is the adaptable element, formed of prefabricated, upgradable pavement structures that retain long-life regardless of the need for upgrades and interventions. The adaptable element accommodates the automated and climate change resilient elements.
The Forever Open Road project takes existing and revolutionary technology, and provides one innovative solution to support all of the ongoing future needs of roads.
The journey to the Forever Open Road will not be without its challenges. What is certain is that Europe’s central forum for highway research, FEHRL, can provide the leadership and motivation that is needed to deliver a programme of research with such a wide scope for
innovation and with such a potential for the development of new products, methods and specifications.
What Happens Next
The phasing of the programme of research takes the Forever Open Road through concept development through to demonstration projects and monitoring, and working towards full-scale trials of both the individual elements and the complete concept. The planned phasing of the programme was:
- Phase 1: Concept development - complete by 2010
- Phase 2: Scoping the research and development - complete by 2011
- Phase 3: Development of the three elements - complete by 2013
- Phase 4: Demonstration projects and monitoring - 2013 onwards.
The next generation of roads will require high levels of adaptation, automation and resilience. These three elements will define the next generation of road as follows:
- The Adaptable Road: focusing on ways to allow road operators to respond in a flexible manner to changes in road users demands and constraints
- The Automated Road: focusing on the full integration of intelligent communication technology (ICT) applications between the user, the vehicle, traffic management services and the road operation
- The Resilient Road: focusing on ensuring service levels are maintained under extreme weather conditions
During 2010 a Research and Development plan was prepared outlining the technologies required to realise the concept, with proposed demonstration projects. Subsequently, roadmaps were developed for each of the three elements.
With the first projects of the FOR programme underway, FEHRL is developing the 'sister' programmes Forever Open Railway, Forever Open River and Forever Open Runway for railway, river and runway infrastructure, respectively. Together these four concepts constitute the FOR x 4 initiative on transport infrastructure. Due to the strong technical overlaps in the infrastructure requirements, there will be many complementary research projects in these other modes - eg bridges, earthworks, materials.
Currently, TRL is participating in a European wide project CAPACITY4RAIL will deliver research that is innovative, prepares rail for the future and takes into account results from previous research projects and programmes. The project builds on previous useable results and will deliver both technical demonstrations and system wide guidelines and recommendations that will be the basis for future research and investment, increasing the capacities of rail networks in the future.