The Asphalt Industry Alliance’s annual report reveals the state of our highways – and how much cash is needed to bring them back to a decent standard
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The roads’ repairs backlog has hit £12.64 billion – £61,700 for every mile of local road in England and Wales, a report reveals today.
The eye-watering sum is needed to fix potholes and resurface bumpy carriageways, according to the annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance.
With Chancellor Rishi Sunak due to deliver the Spring Statement mini-Budget tomorrow, it called for more government cash to bring highways up to standard.
Chairman Rick Green said: “Local authority highway teams have a legal responsibility to keep our roads safe, but do not have the funds to do so in a cost effective, proactive way.
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“As a result, while they report some slight improvements in surface conditions, the structure of our roads continues to decline.”
The study warns that almost one in five local roads could need to be rebuilt in the next five years – nearly 37,000 miles of the network.
Roads are only resurfaced on average once every 70 years.
The number of potholes filled in the last year was 1.7 million – the equivalent of one being repaired every 19 seconds.
But experts warn it is only a short-term fix and full resurfacing is ultimately more cost-effective.
Highway maintenance budgets rose by 4% last year compared with 12 months earlier.
But the report says the proportion being invested in the carriageway itself is down and the reported backlog of carriageway repairs has rocketed by 23% on last year’s figure.
Mr Green added: “The link between continued underinvestment and the ongoing structural decline and below par surface conditions of our local roads is clear.
“The country’s ambitions to encourage active travel, plus cutting waste and carbon emissions, will not be achieved with a short-term approach that can’t deliver a first-rate local road network.”
The RAC’s roads policy chief Nicholas Lyes said the report “provides a sobering picture of the dire condition of our local road network”.
He added: “Not only has there been a significant increase in the cost to fix the backlog of defects, but worryingly the report also shows that roads are only resurfaced once every 70 years on average, with maintenance mostly focusing on filling potholes which is often nothing more than a sticking plaster.”
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The AA said the study “reveals a harsh reality where local roads maintenance teams battle a rising tide of road deterioration”.
Head of roads policy Jack Cousens added: “It is deplorable that yet more billions of pounds are needed to make our roads safe.
“Each year the debate around roads maintenance degenerates into a blame game between local authorities and government as each claims it is the other’s responsibility to resolve.
“Local and national government must get round the table and create a fully-funded plan that will help make our roads safer.”
The Local Government Association’s transport spokesman David Renard said: “Despite the efforts of councils, which repair a pothole every 19 seconds, these stark new figures show our local road repair backlog is rising.
“To clear this growing backlog, councils need further government investment and certainty over future funding over the next decade.
“Roads are the most important transport infrastructure in the country.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The Government is providing more than £5billion of investment over 2020-2025 for highways maintenance to local highways authorities across England.
“This is enough to fill millions of potholes a year, repair dozens of bridges and resurface roads up and down the country.”