Asphalt industry: pothole repair investment barely keeps up

The UK government has pledged to spend £420 million on road infrastructure. Photo: Wikipedia

The 20th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey highlights a 33 per cent increase in the number of potholes filled over the last year. However, according to the asphalt industry, even this increase barely keeps pace with the damage done to roads each year. Indeed, the asphalt industry said the money invested was “wasted”.

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 £12.16 billion 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 (2015) also reports that although authorities in England and Wales have seen their average annual budget shortfall drop by 24 per cent (from £4.2 million in 2014 to £3.2 million this year), the time it would take to clear the backlog has increased to 13 years (from 12 years in 2014).

Alarm Survey 2015 Quick Facts

£12.16 billion – estimated one-time cost to get roads back into reasonable condition.

£93 million per authority – estimated one-time cost in England to get roads back into reasonable condition (£25.2 million in London; £29.4 million in Wales).

2.38 million – number of potholes filled in England (160,000 in London; 130,000 in Wales).

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

£3.7 million per authority – annual budget shortfall in England (£1.2 million in London; £3.7 million 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).

Macenzie added: “The £6 billion of funding pledged between 2015 and 2021 is welcome, and hopefully will be confirmed by an incoming government. But the truth is that although it sounds like a big investment, 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 said around 85 per cent of respondents acknowledged the benefits of structured road maintenance programmes as part of their long-term asset management plans.”

This year’s survey also shows a dramatic increase in the amount paid in road user compensation claims in England (excluding London) which, at £20.2 million, has doubled since last year. The costs for local authorities associated with processing claims also rose, with staff costs exceeding £17.8 million − the equivalent of 225 hours per month per authority.

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