Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

All roads need cash

Government plans to invest £15bn in a major road building programme and £6bn in local roads over the course of the next parliament are welcome. However, there remains a real danger that the strategic and local road networks are being treated in isolation.

Government plans to invest £15bn in a major road building programme and £6bn in local roads over the course of the next parliament are welcome. However, there remains a real danger that the strategic and local road networks are being treated in isolation.

The strategic network must be underpinned by a well- maintained local road asset. Local roads are vital to support the UK’s ongoing economic recovery and regional develop- ment. They account for 98%

of our highways and so delivering an integrated, long term plan for both is a critical part of the overall road transport equation.

Austerity measures in town halls across the UK will continue to be felt long after the 2015 General Election. Indeed many councils have not yet felt the full force of the impending cuts. Transport budgets are not protected, so despite the best efforts of local authorities, when set against this backdrop, their highways departments will continue to struggle to maintain our deteriorating local road asset.

The 2014 Asphalt Industry Alliance Alarm Survey of local authorities across England, indicated that the one-off “catch-up” cost to tackle the maintenance backlog on local roads now stands at £12bn, its highest ever figure.

The government has said that it will provide councils with £6bn over the next six years to maintain local highways. Of this figure, £4.7bn will be allocated according to a needs-based formula and £580M of this figure will only go to those councils who can demonstrate good asset management and delivery of efficiencies.

This sends a very clear message to the sector – we must work together to develop

robust asset management plans; rethinking road maintenance and taking proactive steps with partners in local authorities and across the wider supply chain who have the skills, knowledge and expertise to help achieve this strategic goal.

While I am hopeful that politicians from all parties now recognise the importance of our road infrastructure, it remains to be seen whether even the bigger strategic road projects will survive any post-election cuts.

Long-term thinking of our road asset, whether strategic or local, is essential.

When it comes to local road funding, the Local Government Association has calculated that it would be possible for the government to inject a further £1bn a year into local roads maintenance by investing just 2p per litre of the existing fuel duty. Its recent national polling on this issue found that 83% of the public backs this proposal. This is a proposal which I believe needs further consider- ation .

With the General Election looming and further austerity cuts on the horizon, funding for this roads programme is far from guaranteed. Yes, the industry has a pipeline of (some) new projects, but many do not come with financial certainty.

Whoever holds the keys to Number 11 Downing Street next May must understand that local and strategic roads cannot be viewed in isolation.

  • Paul Fleetham is managing director of Lafarge Tarmac Contracting

Lafarge Tarmac logo

Lafarge Tarmac logo

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.