£10bn crisis in road repair funding
Local authorities across England and Wales are facing an £800m shortfall in annual road maintenance funding, according to a new industry survey.
The state of the roads has been allowed to deteriorate so much that it would cost nearly £10bn to get them all back up to standard.
The 17th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey published today (15 March 2012) has gathered information from 70% of the local authority highways departments across England and Wales. It reports that 1.7 million potholes were filled by local authority contractors across England and Wales last year. Based on average costs quoted by survey respondents, the cost of filling that number of potholes equated to £90m.
The survey is produced by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA). It argues that filling potholes is a short-term reactive form of maintenance that is at least 20 times more expensive than planned preventative maintenance, which involves resurfacing a road at regular intervals.
The AIA says that this year’s survey “reveals the sorry legacy of historic underfunding of the local authority highway maintenance service after three successive periods of severe winter weather”.
The survey found that local authorities in England were still reporting a serious shortfall in their annual funding, averaging £5.3m in each authority (£2.7m in London, £3.3m in Wales). Across England and Wales this totals nearly £800m.
The number of complaints received from the general public increased by 10% over the previous year, amounting to an average of over 12,500 received by each authority in England (excluding London).
AIA chairman Alan Mackenzie said: “Severe winter weather would not, in itself, produce a plague of potholes on well-maintained roads. These disastrous figures result from decades of underfunding and enforced short-term planning, frustrating the efforts of local authority highways engineers to carry out the preventative work which they know has needed to be done. One in five local authority roads has less than five years life. This is clearly unsustainable.
“Preparation of robust asset management inventory plans will help councillors to identify where the spending is needed.”
The AIA is calling for central and local government to help highways departments to get their roads back into reasonable condition and to implement longer term planning. More than half of the survey respondents said that funding should be set for a minimum of five years so that they could plan more cost effective preventative maintenance, while 35% said that funding should be set for 10 years or more.
Speaking on behalf of motorists, AA president Edmund King said: “AA members are very concerned at this pothole plague. AA Streetwatch volunteers reported more potholes per survey (14.9) at the end of last year than in the previous survey in 2010 (12.5). This deterioration is despite councils working hard to keep pace to reduce the backlog using the extra cash allocated by the Department for Transport.
“The ALARM Survey once again shows that potholes blight our roads and are as much about lack of investment in proper road repairs as they are about bad winters and heavy traffic. We need a new approach to stop this vicious circle of decline which causes danger to all road users, particularly those on two wheels, and expensive damage to vehicles.”
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This article was published on 15 Mar 2012 (last updated on 16 Mar 2012).