Highways materials laboratory

The North Somerset highways materials laboratory is part of our highways and transport department, and has been based at a depot in Flax Bourton since the 1980s.

We offer a materials testing and advice service to engineers in local authorities and the private sector, who are involved in road construction and maintenance across the West of England area.

Taking a core sample from a pavement
Pavement after the sample has been taken
A coring sample in the laboratory
Selection of road or pavement samples ready for testing
Glass beakers in the lab
Our Highways lab trailer


We specialise in the laboratory and site testing of bituminous and clean stone materials used in the highway. We are proud to hold accreditation for a number of tests through the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

Although our laboratory is a small facility, our experienced staff have worked across the range of highway activities including

  • management of local authority networks and the production of design for maintenance schemes
  • supervision and planning of major surfacing contracts
  • quality assurance testing for bituminous material production and product development.

As well as the UKAS accredited range of tests, we are also able to offer other testing. Demand for these tests is generally lower and would not justify us obtaining UKAS accreditation. However, they are still subject to the same quality system and calibration regime as the accredited tests. Examples include

  • measurement of skid resistance using the TRL pendulum kid checker to Road Note 27
  • measurement of the rate of spread of pre coated chippings
  • moisture content of salt used for winter maintenance operations
  • road hardness assessment to BS 598 Pt 112:2004
  • residual binder content of bond coats.

Thanks to our long established links with other test laboratories, we can organise obscure or difficult to source tests for a wide variety of materials and processes. Using a partner laboratory means we can deliver a client’s total requirements with a one stop approach, even when we can’t undertake all the work ourselves.

Designers need detailed information for new construction and maintenance works. By using our purpose built coring rig, our laboratory team can provide detailed information about the existing construction and identify tar which may need separate treatment.

Our laboratory also has equipment to provide estimated CBR’s which can confirm if the existing foundation is still fit for purpose. The same equipment can be used to investigate pavement failures, and we have staff available to interpret the results and provide advice on remedial treatments.

Why we do it

As a council we spend a considerable amount of money each year on construction materials and services. Having the materials laboratory means we can confirm what we buy complies with the relevant specifications and provides value for money.

Other organisations, such as utility companies, also carry out work in the highway which we are responsible for. Using the laboratory allows us to check the work they have done complies with the national specification and will prove durable in the long term.

Designers need as much information as possible about the existing structure and ground conditions on which to base their design and estimates. The information provided by our laboratory reduces the risk of an inappropriate design and enables better estimating and budgeting of scheme costs.

Find out more

The laboratory is usually open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, and at other times by agreement.

Highway Materials Laboratory

Old Weston Road

Cambridge Batch

BS48 1UL