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Maintenance backlog up

Local authority roads are deteriorating fast because utilities have increased the number of times they dig them up, according to a major survey of the condition of local authority roads published this week.

The 2008 Annual Local Road Maintenance Survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) claims that road openings by utilities have increased by nearly 20% in the last year from just over 2M in 2007 to nearly 2.5M in 2008.

These and damage caused by last summer's flooding, have increased the road maintenance backlog by £9M from £1.055bn to £1.064bn despite increases in the road maintenance budgets in recent years.

"There is considerable concern over the level of longer term damage to the road infrastructure caused by deep trenching, as well as the need it creates for premature resurfacing, both of which increase the financial pressures on local authority highway maintenance budgets," said AIA chairman Jim Crick.

He is calling for further rises in budgets after a disappointing Comprehensive Spending Review settlement for local authorities last autumn.
Crick added that rules should also be introduced to ring-fence existing budgets.

"Trenches dug by utility and service companies are a necessary evil but reduce the longer term road life by around 30%," said Crick.
AIA director David Weekes urged local authorities to use the Traffic Management Act, which came into force this week, to insist on a better standard of reinstatement from utilities.

"After the hole is refilled it often settles and cracks under weight of traffic and water gets into it," said Weekes.
"The [Act] will give more power to local authorities to insist on a better standard of work."

RAC Foundation acting director Sheila Ranger said: "Trenches dug by utility companies cause congestion and delay and can permanently weaken the road surface. Councils who are struggling to properly fund planned maintenance are too often forced to patch and mend in their wake."

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