Senior Department for Transport (DfT) civil servants yesterday told MPs that standards would be affected by road maintenance spending cuts but asserted that the network would not degrade under the plans.
Addressing the Public Accounts Committee yesterday regarding reducing costs in the DfT they confirmed that issues may not be dealt with as quickly as they currently are but that they would instead be dealt with in routine inspections.
A report by public spending watchdog National Audit Office says that a reduction in routine maintenance spending would equate to £310M to 2014/2015 but there would be a corresponding increase of £150M in capital spending to move to an annual cycle of maintenance with managed degradation and much slower response times.
“We believe it is going to be possible to make more of the maintenance routine and therefore reduce the overall cost,” said DfT outgoing permanent secretary Lin Homer. “So we think this approach will maintain the road network in a safe and usable condition. We think you might see deterioration occasionally that’s then picked up in the routine, so instead of going out and filling a pothole when it emerges it might then get picked up on the
Committee member James Wharton said that ther “seems to be an acceptance that maintenance of roads will be generally to a lower standard and slower”.
Homer added that while there may be moments when it looks like conditions are worsening the DfT did not believe “the network would degrade” under the plans but accepted that there would need to be careful monitoring as a result of the changes.
The report points out the Highways Agency will see the greatest reduction in spending in this review period from the Department for Transport. Budgets are falling, in cash terms, from £3.2bn per annum in 2010/11 to £2.1bn in 2014/15, a 41% real terms reduction.