Roads survey confirms impact of under investment

April 2 2015  

Roads survey confirms impact of under investment
Negative impacts caused by decades of under investment in local highways have been confirmed by the latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey.
It found that despite additional Government emergency pothole repair funding and a significant 33% increase in the number of potholes being repaired during 2014 there still remains a blacklog of over £12.16Bn required to bring the local road network up to an adequate standard, an increase from £12Bn in 2013.
The annual survey is carried out by the Asphalt Industry Alliance and is based on information supplied by 52% of local authorities responsible for roads in England and Wales. It found that 2.7M potholes were filled last year.
However this is expensive reactive repair rather than cost effective preventative maintenance that would prevent the potholes forming in the first place. This has long been the logical economic argument forwarded by the road maintenance industry.
“Due to years of under investment, local authorities are playing a never ending catch up game," says Road Surface Treatments Association chief executive Howard Robinson. 
"They need the assurance of long term funding so that they can undertake planned programmes of maintenance not expensive patch and mend. It costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs an average £57m2 to repair potholes.”
Mr Robinson also points to a further cost of poorly maintained roads, that of compensation to drivers for vehicular damage caused by potholes. He said: “Last year the cost of road user compensation claims rose to £32.1M. This is money that hard pressed local authorities can ill afford.”
The survey shows that local highway departments acknowledge the benefits of structured road maintenance programmes as part of their long term asset management plans but do not have financial certainty to allow them to plan and implement such programmes. “Roads are our greatest asset and the development of asset management plans is a key issue.
"RSTA is working closely with the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme and forward thinking highway authorities to encourage the widespread adoption of asset management,” adds Mr Robinson.
There is some optimism that the Government is at last realising the need for assured long term road maintenance funding with £6Bn pledged between 2015 and 2021. “However this may sound like a significant amount of money but given the poor state of the road network and the growing traffic demands being placed upon it the funding will only be enough for local authorities to continue to 
play catch up and do nothing to address the £12Bn backlog of road repairs," Mr Robinson adds.
"The incoming Government must recognise the social and economic benefits of a well maintained road network and work with local authorities to develop and introduce long term funding mechanisms that encourage programmes of planned maintenance. Relying on expensive patch and mend is not the answer.”
(Photo: Mike Walter)

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