Malaysia still evaluating feasibility of rubberised roads in pilot projects

road-1Malaysia, one of the world’s largest natural rubber producing countries, has already completed and is now evaluating three pilot projects to determine the technical and financial feasibility of using rubber on stretches of roads and highways.

Malaysia Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yuso said the results were being evaluated, and any decision to build more extensive infrastructure would depend on that process. Three 1-km stretches of roads in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan have already been paved with rubber.

Malaysia’s plantations minister, Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, had earlier said the government would start building rubberised roads this year.

The most likely project to use rubberised asphalt this year would be the 1,000-km Pan-Borneo Highway project to connect the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak with Brunei (pictured), for which only 192km have so far been completed.

Fadillah said the evaluation process would usually take two years but he had set a one-year deadline to assess costs and the strength of the material.“The final results will be available within this year and the three pilot projects are showing some positive indications that this will be one of the options,” he said.

The three trials are on roads that carry palm oil tankers, and so were subject to higher wear than normal carriageways.

The mixture used in the rubberised road is based on a compound of “cup lump” rubber and bitumen.

According to Fadillah, construction of a rubberised road would be slightly more expensive than using a conventional surface, but the maintenance cost would be much cheaper.Plantations minister Mah said roads built with the new material were 16% more expensive than the conventional option.

Rubber producers around the world have been lobbying for the use of rubberised asphalt, and have pointed to tests showing that they make roads quieter, more skid resistant, and more resistant to weathering and erosion. The intensity of the lobbying has increased since the price of natural rubber has fallen by 60% on the past five years.

The material has been used on a few road schemes in America, where it was first tried in Phoenix, Arizona in the sixties. More recently, pilot projects have been carried out in Brussels and Dundee.