Claims soar as pothole crisis deepens

14/03/2013
Highways Reporters

The condition of the local road network deteriorated further last year, despite councils fixing more than two million potholes.



Local authorities in England and Wales spent £113m on filling 2.2m potholes, but the state of the network has got worse.

The annual national survey of local road network condition and funding published on Thursday reveals a crumbling road crisis.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance is now calling for Government to introduce longer-term funding mechanisms, allowing councils to move from one-year costly cycles of highly reactive work to planned, preventative maintenance programmes.

According to the 18th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey, councils have paid out 50% more last year than the previous year in compensation claims from road users for damage or injury due to poor road condition.

Over the year £32m was paid out in compensation claims and the cost of staff time spent on claims amounted to over £13m.

This year, local authorities in England report a shortfall in their annual budgets of £829m.

Across England and Wales, authorities estimate that £10.5bn would be needed to bring their roads back into reasonable condition.

“Constantly having to patch up crumbling roads rather than using highway engineers’ skills properly, to ensure good road condition in a planned and cost effective way, is nonsensical and costly to the country,” says AIA Chairman, Alan Mackenzie.

“The DfT’s Potholes Review was a welcome initiative and concluded that ‘prevention is better than cure’.

"When you add up all the costs incurred by not following this advice, it’s hard to understand why central Government cannot find a way to invest in this much needed work and save on higher costs in the future.”

The local road network accounts for 95 per cent of the country’s roads.

One in five local roads is reported as being in “poor condition”, which is defined as having five years or less life remaining.

The longer remedial work is delayed the more its cost increases.

Poor local road condition is costing the country’s small and medium-sized businesses a cumulative £52bn a year in various ways such as reduced productivity, increased fuel consumption, damage to vehicles, and delayed deliveries.

The 59% of ALARM respondents whose roads were damaged as a result of the extreme rainfall in 2012, estimated the total cost of their repairs at £338m.

Extreme weather has a disproportionate effect on roads that are not kept in good condition and water is particularly damaging to the lower, structural layers of the road.

“Emergency funding from Government is welcome, but a little extra here and there makes very little difference,” says Mackenzie.

“The additional £215m announced in the autumn to help improve local road condition over the next couple of years doesn’t even cover the £338m of damage repair needed as a result of last year’s rainfall.

“It’s time to stop the rot. The Government needs to make sufficient funding available now that will enable local authorities to get their roads back into a condition that will quickly and directly boost the economy, help businesses and improve local communities.”

At the same time a survey carried out by the AA of more than 22,000 people has revealed that in the last two years a third of AA members have suffered pothole damage to their cars

The local roads in Scotland and Yorkshire and Humberside were rated as the worst in Britain by those taking part in the AA Populus poll, with 40% rated as being in poor, very poor or terrible condition.

Northern Ireland, Wales and London were revealed to have the best roads. However, 50% of all respondents said that the pothole problem had grown in the last 12 months.

The full ALARM Survey 2013 can be downloaded from http://www.asphaltuk.org/.
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