12 year backlog on road repairs
Council chiefs have warned that the country is facing a roads crisis that is escalating at an “alarming pace” after new research put the cost of bringing highways up to a decent standard at over £12bn.
The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) shows that councils fixed just over 2m potholes in England and Wales last year, yet record rainfall meant the overall conditions of local roads deteriorated again.
The AIA said that almost one-fifth (18 per cent) of roads outside the capital and 19 per cent in London are now classed as being in poor condition. The cost of clearing the backlog of repairs was up from £10.5bn last year.
The one-off cost of clearing the backlog of repairs rose by 30 per cent for English authorities outside London to £90m per council. This is despite a 20 per cent drop in the reported average shortfall in annual roads maintenance budgets, which fell from £6.2m to £5.1m per authority.
The AIA estimates that it would take 12 years to clear the current backlog of repairs, rising to 14 years in London.
The scale of the problem could be even worse. Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of councils were affected by the winter deluge, although at the time of the survey many could not assess the full extent of the damage caused because some roads were still under water.
In addition to the increase in the cost of repairs, councils saw compensation claims from motorists who are injured or whose vehicles are damaged by roads in poor condition jump by 20 per cent last year to an average of 540. Payouts totalled £16.6m, with another £15m being spent on processing claims.
The AIA welcomed the announcement of an extra £200m in the Budget to help councils repair potholes, but chairman Alan Mackenzie said roads urgently need an “invest to save” approach.
“The Government has recently made significant additional funds available to help combat the results of the relentless rainfall this winter, but money spent on repairing damage never goes as far as money invested in planned, preventative maintenance,” he added. “It costs at least 20 times more per square metre to fill a pothole than it does to resurface a road.”
Responding to the report, Councillor Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Economy & Transport Board, said, “Councils have long warned that our already dilapidated road network could not cope with another extreme winter and the unprecedented recent flooding experienced across the country has left behind a trail of destruction to our highways.
“The Government has responded to our calls for extra funding to repair our roads in recent months but it is simply not enough to free councils trapped in an endless cycle of only being able to patch up our deteriorating network. This will always be more expensive than longer-term preventative work.
“This country is now facing a roads crisis escalating at an alarming pace with every bout of severe weather and following years of underfunding. The Government’s own traffic projections predict a potential increase in local traffic of more than 40 per cent by 2040. This further highlights the urgent need for increased and consistent investment in the widespread resurfacing projects we desperately need if we’re ever to see a long-term improvement.”