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Repair backlog formula to boost funding case

Britain's first ever accurate measure of the cost of repairing its deteriorating roads will be developed under a research project to be agreed this week.
Highway maintenance condition surveys have long been derided as anecdotal and experts have warned that the lack of robust data has contributed to poor funding settlements for road maintenance from the Department for Transport (DfT).

Now local authority highways engineers body UK Roads Board is set to agree a research project to agree the tools and techniques for a standardised approach to road deterioration surveys.

It is hoped that the measurement tool would then become enshrined in DfT guidance on road maintenance and that councils would be required to use the tool as part of their Local Transport Plan funding bids.

"At the moment we are all measuring our road maintenance backlogs differently so we are not getting very consistent figures," said UK Roads Board chairman Matthew Lugg.

"Local authorities often only calculate their backlogs annually and the evidence is anecdotal. Often it's based on guestimates."

Lugg warned that the lack of scientific approach was harming the prospects for increased maintenance funding.

"This is part of the problem when it comes to presenting the case for investment to government. There is a great benefit for the local authority to get a better idea of what investment is needed, particularly if they are bidding for PFI work."

Lugg added that he hoped the DfT would enshrine the model established by the research project in its own guidance for local authorities to include the model in Transport Asset Management Plans presented with annual Local Transport Plan bids.

"It's obvious that a backlog exists and debate about how it should be defined has acted in the past as a barrier to addressing the problem," said Asphalt Industry Alliance chairman Jim Crick.

"A consistent and quantifiable definition has to be the way forward."

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