THE GOVERNMENT'S plan to transfer 3,000km of trunk roads to local authority control is likely to lead to further deterioration of the network, the British Roads Federation claimed this week.
The BRF claims that the past record of underspending on road maintenance by councils is poor and the backlog is set to escalate under the Government's de-trunking programme.
The BRF has commissioned research which shows that 66% of shire counties are spending less on repairs than allowed for in standard spending assessments. It also claims that the underspend in extreme cases is 20% and many already have substantial maintenance backlogs.
Speaking at 'Detrunking: The road ahead', a conference organised by the civil engineering department of Aston University, BRF chief executive Richard Diment said: 'If detrunking is to provide real benefit, it must be accompanied by adequate resources for maintenance and appropriate capital improvement.
'These roads would also benefit from the introduction of a Roads Inspectorate and the development of performance indicators and service level targets so the impact of the change of control can be independently assessed and quantified.'
The Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions announced in last July's Integrated Transport White Paper that two-fifths of the trunk road network will be reclassified as local roads.
The scheme has already come under fire from the ICE (NCE 6 May 1999), which points to research indicating a £5bn maintenance backlog, growing at the rate of about £1bn a year.
The 1998 National Road Maintenance Condition Survey found that the proportion of local roads with no residual life is 15.5%, compared to 8.2% for trunk roads.
The Local Government Association said criticism was premature, as the funding regime was still being worked out.
LGA transport policy officer Vince Christy said: 'For the BRF to say that it's all going to go horribly wrong is probably a step too far at this stage.'