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Pothole cash wasted as local road network condition remains the same, says survey

The 2015 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey has highlighted a massive 33% increase in the number of potholes filled over the last year − but no reduction in the amount needed to bring the network up to scratch.

Despite local authorities reporting an increase in their overall maintenance budget, one in six roads in England and Wales are still classed as being in poor condition and an estimated £12.2bn is needed to get the local road network back into reasonable condition.

Alan Mackenzie, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which produces the ALARM survey, said: “The government’s emergency funding for pothole and flood repair following last year’s wet winter has clearly contributed to the trends reported in this year’s survey.

“Essentially, the money spent on filling the 2.7 million potholes reported is wasted − it is inefficient and short term in its effectiveness.

“So, while we understand that the Department for Transport is promoting permanent repairs, the point remains that money would be better spent preventing potholes forming in the first place.”

This year’s ALARM survey also reports that although authorities in England and Wales have seen their average annual budget shortfall drop by 24% from £4.2M in 2014 to £3.2M this year, the time it would take to clear the backlog has increased slightly to 13 years from 12 years last year.

Mackenzie added that while the £6bn of funding for maintenance pledged by the government between 2015 and 2021 was welcome, in truth it was not as big an investment as it sounds. “It will only be enough for local authorities to tread water and it will do nothing to tackle the backlog or prevent continuing deterioration,” he stressed.

He said around 85% of respondents acknowledged the benefits of structured road maintenance programmes as part of their long-term asset management plans.

“Research has shown that adopting an ‘invest to save’ approach pays dividends − with every planned investment in the road network providing long-term savings of more than twice the value,” he said. “Moving forward, we need planned structural maintenance, resurfacing, strengthening and reconstruction.”

The ALARM survey 2015 was completed by 52% of the local authorities responsible for roads in England and Wales and was conducted during January and February 2015.

ALARM SURVEY 2015 QUICK FACTS

£12.2bn – estimated one-time cost to get roads back into reasonable condition.

£93M Estimated one-time cost per English authority to get roads back into reasonable condition.

2.38M – number of potholes filled in England.

£428M – annual budget shortfall in England (£39.8M in London; £80.8M in Wales).

12 years – to clear backlog in England (15 years in London; 13 years in Wales).

64 years – average time before road is resurfaced in England (31 years in London; 59 years in Wales).

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