Local roads investment still falling short
There are signs that an increase in local authority highway maintenance budgets is stemming the decline in the condition of the local road network, but the increased investment is still falling short of the amount needed to maintain local roads to target conditions.
This year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, published on March 26 2019 by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), a joint venture between MPA Asphalt and Eurobitume UK reports that, for the second consecutive year, local authorities’ highway maintenance budgets have increased by almost 20%. For councils in England and London this included a share of £420 million additional funding allocated in the November 2018 Budget.
The 24th ALARM report shows there are early signs that the extra money is halting further decline, after years of underfunding have led to a local road network on the edge. However, the one-time catch-up cost to fix the network continues to rise.
Rick Green, Chairman of the AIA, said: “There are glimmers of hope but, while overall highway maintenance budgets are up, there is still a big discrepancy between the haves and have nots. Some local authorities received the equivalent of more than £90,000 per mile of their individual networks, while a third continue to struggle with reduced budgets, with several having less than £9,000 per mile to maintain their local roads.
“Achieving target conditions on all categories of local roads – those that we all rely on every day – still remains out of reach. To put this into context, if local authorities had enough funds to meet their own targets across all road types it would give us more than 20,000 miles of improved local roads.
“It is encouraging that those in control of the purse strings seem to have recognised the value that additional expenditure on roads can deliver. But it’s clear from the 29% increase in the number of potholes filled in England and London, that much of this has been used for patch and mend. This doesn’t provide value for money, nor will it improve the underlying structure and resilience of our roads.
“With the amount needed to bring the local road network up to scratch still approaching £10 billion, sustained investment over a longer timeframe is needed if we want a local road network that supports enhanced mobility, connectivity and productivity.
“Last year the AIA set out that £1.5 billion additional funding was needed for local roads each year for the next 10 years to allow them to be brought up to a condition from which they can be managed in a cost-effective way. We stand by this call.”