Motorists concerned about condition of local roads

08/09/2015
Highways Reporters

The condition of local roads has been named as drivers top motoring concern, according to a report carried out by the RAC.

One in 10 motorists (10%) said the condition of local roads was their top concern, while a further 20% listed the issue as one of their top four concerns. Half (50%) of the 1,555 motorists surveyed* for the RAC Report on Motoring believe the condition of roads in their area has deteriorated in the past 12 months with just 10% claiming it has improved; the remainder reporting no change.

Road conditions are a particularly big worry in Scotland and the south west of England, where one in five (19%) motorists say this is their top concern. The latter is not surprising given that Devon has the most miles of roads of any county in England and one of the highest maintenance backlogs in the country. Londoners, however, are more positive: only 30% of motorists in the capital say their roads have deteriorated since 2014. This is half the rate (59%) reported among drivers who live in villages or rural areas.

For the 50% who say roads are worse, the vast majority (99%) attribute this to potholes and general damage to the road surface, although litter is a source of annoyance for a quarter (24%), as is poor maintenance of verges for a fifth (21%).

The government has itself estimated the cost of bringing local roads in England alone back to a state that is fit for purpose to be up to £8.6bn. This is despite only allocating £6bn purely to maintain and improve local roads up until 2021. However, other estimates from the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA)**, put the cost of returning English and Welsh local roads to a ‘reasonable condition’ to be far greater at £12.16bn (England £11.5bn).

RAC chief engineer RAC David Bizley said: “Motorists clearly want the government to provide sufficient funding to ensure local roads are maintained properly, but while any central government money given to local authorities for roads must be spent on roads, we also need councils to spend more of their own funds on repairing and replacing road surfaces.

“Currently, this is a challenge as they are under specific legal obligation to provide minimum standards in education and social services whereas their obligations to maintain roads are far less prescriptive. It is therefore inevitable that expenditure is biased against investment in the likes of road maintenance where prescriptive legal obligations do not exist and councillors therefore do not face legal sanctions.

“The government has taken bold steps to ensure that the strategic road network in England is fit for purpose and is capable of supporting economic growth by the implementing a Roads Investment Strategy and ring-fencing vehicle excise duty to fund the maintenance and development of the network from 2020. Equally, bold and imaginative action is now required to address the deficiencies in local roads as funding from central government is insufficient even to address the current backlog of repairs and local authorities are currently unable to fill the gap from council tax revenues.”
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