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Honda replicates ‘rough’ British roads on Japanese test track in effort to ensure cars are robust enough for pothole Britain

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Published: 10 April 2013
HONDA is taking extraordinary measures to prepare its new vehicles for Britain's roads – by creating test tracks to replicate the UK's terrible road surfaces, Exaro, the investigative news website has revealed.

David Henke and Keith Perry reported that the Japanese car manufacturer has found roads to be so bad in the UK that engineers at Honda have recreated - in Japan - a typical British road to test their new cars to ensure they are robust enough – and have sufficient sound-proofing – for the British market.

honda test track
Authorities responsible for roads in the UK, including The Highways Agency, are said to be embarrassed by the move. 

The roads in Japan are too good to mimic the harsh driving conditions in the UK, according to Honda. As a result, it has copied the uneven surfaces found on typical UK highways, often blamed for hefty repair bills for drivers. Honda says that British roads absorb more water than the harder surfaces used in mainland Europe – suggesting poorer quality asphalt is used in the construction of our roads. When the water freezes, it expands and cracks road surfaces, resulting in the classic English pothole.

It has recreated a UK road at its Takasu base in Hokkaido, Japan. The 6.8km track is so realistic, it even has British road signs.

A Honda spokesman revealed all to Exaro News: "The road surfaces in continental Europe, especially in the North, are paved with hard material that does not absorb water. This is because, in severe winter, absorbed water in the material may freeze, turn into ice and destruct the roads.

"England does not tend to suffer with this severe winter, and so the surface is made with softer materials with many pores to absorb rain to prevent a slippery surface.

"As a result, UK roads have a rougher surface, which creates more road noise than other European roads. What Honda wanted to replicate in Takasu was this type of road surface. Rough does not mean badly maintained or pot-holes. It means the different material."

potholes in britain
Honda faces an increasing number of challenges in testing cars fit for UK roads. The spokesman went on to explain: "The uniqueness of UK roads is the roundabout. In certain rural UK areas, roundabouts create a situation where high stopping power, agile acceleration response and high manoeuvrability is required.

"There is no such situation in Japan because there are hardly any roundabouts. All the models to be sold in Europe are tested on these roads."

The manufacturer describes the high-speed track as "redefining the limits of circular-course functionality." It incorporates other features to test cars for UK roads, including sharp turns. Hokkaido also suffers from sub-zero temperatures, similar to the UK's horrifyingly cold winters.

Several cyclists die every year as a result of crashes caused by potholes, with 15 per cent of legal claims from cyclists stemming from poorly maintained roads, according to Chris Peck, policy officer of the Cyclists' Touring Club.

potholes in britain
And those same roads resulted in councils having to pay out nearly £23m in compensation to motorists last year, with the average cost of a repair being £220. 

In England alone, the cost of outstanding repairs has grown from an average of £53 million per local authority in 2009 to £61 million last year, according to a Which? report.

But in six of the nine regions, the need for repairs has fallen since its peak in 2011. In Wales, the cost of the backlog to fix road surfaces and fill in potholes grew slightly, from £22m in 2009 to £23m in 2012.

The reports by Which? says it would cost nearly £52,600 for every mile in England to fix every damaged road – not including motorways and A-roads. 
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