London roads backlog hits £1bn

04/06/2019
Dominic Browne

The road maintenance backlog in London has hit more than £1bn for the first time, as the capital’s boroughs concede they are presiding over a state of managed decline.

In the third annual ‘State of the city’ report, conducted by Atkins on behalf of London Councils and the London Technical Advisers Group, the total highways maintenance backlog is estimated to be £1.02bn up from £907m.

”Local
 

The survey covers roads managed by London’s boroughs, which are responsible for 95% of the capital’s roads, as well as pavements, street lighting, drainage and other associated structures

While there may be some debate over the figures, the actual total is likely to be much higher as there are large gaps in the data.

In this year’s survey, 27 out 33 highway authorities, including the City of London, responded to questionnaire and the total figure does not cover trees or drainage. To put this in perspective, Hammersmith and Fulham Council alone is estimated to have around 17,000 trees.

Of those responding there is a wide variety of condition data coverage. Tower Hamlets, Newham, Greenwich, Kingston upon Thames and Harrow only have between 45% and 56% condition data coverage, with Sutton and Islington on 56% to 67% and Bromley, Lambeth Brent and Haringey on between 67% and 78%.

Senior figures in LoTAG laid the blame squarely on the lack of funding.

London local authorities expect to see core funding from government reduced by 63% in real terms over the decade to 2020. This equates to around £4bn less funding to spend on essential services in the capital.

According to the State of the City report, the current network spend is £300.78m a year, compared to an annual maintenance need of £352.17m demonstrating the uphill struggle authorities are faced with.

Councils fund the maintenance of their own local roads, while they also receive funding through Transport for London for key routes in their areas.

Ian Hawthorn of the ‎London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and LoTAG) co-chair, said: ‘Under the principal road funding [from TfL under Local Implementation Plans] footways have never been included. It’s only roads that are funded by TFL. We are under pressure in every area; spend, need and backlog. It’s the same message we had last year. The challenges are just getting bigger. We have a massive backlog.

‘We re trying to cope with we are trying to do that in an environment where there is not the money to do what we need to do.

‘Trees are like a hidden asset that no one walks about but they still need to be maintained. Drainage is another one. Gulleys are a major expense. It’s not a great story. We need help to maintain the assets in London.

‘The amount of pressure we have. But actually we are stepping up to the mark and maintain the asset as best as we can thing to find new ways to become more efficient.’

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