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Shortfall triggers road closure fears

Local authorities could be forced to close roads due to the mounting maintenance backlog, even though the government doubled repairs cash in last week’s Budget.

Chancellor George Osborne announced an extra £100M of funding for local authorities to tackle the impact on roads of last year’s severe winter weather − taking the total funding announced for potholes to £200M.

However, the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey of local authority highway departments across England and Wales found that the total damage to roads caused by the 2010 winter weather was £362M.

The total maintenance backlog across England and Wales is estimated to have grown by more than £1bn last year, to £10.65bn according to a survey conducted by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA). Local authorities responding to the survey said that the annual maintenance spend shortfall totalled £895M.

AIA director David Weeks told NCE that this, and a potential cut in maintenance budget of £440M in the next four years, meant that “the deterioration is going to reach the stage where some rural roads are going to have to be closed because they are not safe”.

“We are already seeing planning for it,” he said. “In the ALARM survey focus groups, road closures are on the agenda now. If local authorities can’t get funding then they will have to prioritise.”

The survey, which was published last week, shows that the number of potholes repaired last year increased 59% on the previous year, putting the total number at 2.2M.

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