Highways departments face £895m shortfall

31/03/2011
Highways Reporters

The cost of repairs needed to fix roads across England and Wales has risen to £10.65bn even after more than two million potholes were filled last year.

The latest local authority road maintenance (ALARM) Survey highlighted a worrying deterioration in the nation’s network during the last 12 months.

Local authority highways departments quizzed across the country said the total number of potholes filled over the last year reached 2,202,000 – an increase of 59% over the previous year following a series of cold snaps.

Councils said the cost of the 2010 winter damage is £362m, adding to the cost of the previous year’s winter damage of £400m.

Authorities continue to report an annual shortfall in the highway maintenance budget they receive from central government.

This year it amounts to £895m, an increase of 12% on last year’s shortfall.

Councils said the the level of one-off investment needed to get their roads back into reasonable condition is £10.65bn – an increase of £1.15bn on the amount estimated last year.

Under funding of highway maintenance programmes is believed by 90% of local authorities to create a threat to road user safety.

Asphalt Industry Alliance Chairman, Colin Loveday, said: “Local authorities are doing what they can, but reactive maintenance – such as simply filling potholes when they appear – is at least 20 times more expensive than planned preventative maintenance.

“The annual shortfall in budget has increased this year and spending review cuts translate to a potential loss of another £440m over the next four years.

“The additional £200m announced in February and March this year is welcome but if the government wants to save the country money it should be investing in local roads now to save a massive repair bill later on.”

Highway engineers in England said one in five local roads were in poor condition with a remaining life of less than five years.

In Wales 17% of roads were considered to be in poor condition and in London the figure was 25%.

AA president Edmund King said: “The ALARM figures show that £100m here and there, although welcome, simply isn’t going to fix a problem of this scale.

“Lack of preventative maintenance and harsh winter weather over three years has clearly taken its toll, with our members reporting a marked deterioration in road condition.

“We have to keep up the battle against this blight which damages cars and risks road safety, especially for those on two wheels.”
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