£8.5bn is needed to bring the roads in England and Wales up to scratch, says the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey due to be published this week.
The survey, which collects information from local authority highways departments (responsible for 95 per cent of roads) across England and Wales, reports that the number of potholes in England has increased by 32 per cent over the previous year and highways departments have had to cope with the intrusion of nearly two million deep trenches into roads for utility and other service provision works, which reduce the lifespan of the road and often lead to surface defects such as potholes.
“Free flowing traffic on unobstructed roads is the most environmentally friendly and the safest,” said chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance Mike Linley. “Vehicles that have to constantly stop and start generate more emissions and with a road opening or pothole every 120 yards, or one every 110 metres², free flowing traffic seems like an impossible dream.
“Allowing our roads to deteriorate into such a condition is irresponsible on several levels. Local authority highway departments should not have to bear the brunt of public complaints when they are the ones who have the will and expertise to get our roads fixed. The situation could be resolved relatively swiftly by finding funding solutions that bring the bonus of creating more jobs around the country.”
Use of funds earmarked by central Government for infrastructure improvements and a charging system for road openings are two ready means of helping to raise the additional budget required to bring road condition up to scratch.
“Much of the £6 billion expenditure on roads announced by the Government in January has been allocated to projects that may not see the light of day for six years, if at all,” said Linley. “Highway maintenance work provides the ‘shovel-ready’ projects the Government is looking for to stimulate the economy with almost immediate effect.”
Longer term measures to help fill the funding gap include the implementation of legislation now available under the Traffic Management Act to make charges for opening roads for work on utilities and other services. This should make the financial impact of such work on local authority budgets transparent, rather than it being hidden within overall highway maintenance budgets. The outcome of further research to identify these costs is expected to be available in the near future.