RAC report outlines ‘chronic need’ for greater investment in local roads

More than 3,000 council-maintained road bridges in the UK are substandard and not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles now seen on the country’s roads, according to a report by the RAC Foundation.

The study, which analysed data from 199 of the 207 local highway authorities in Britain, has led to an urgent call from councils for greater investment in local roads to ensure that road transport infrastructure is sufficiently funded to support local needs.

The RAC Foundation also stated that due to budget constraints, only 416 of the road bridges were likely to have the necessary work carried out on them to bring them up to suitable conditions in the next five years. Its report follows the government allocating £1.2bn worth of funds for upgrading the country’s roads earlier this year, something that was still “not enough” according to councils.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “It’s the pothole backlog that normally hits the headlines but it is easy to forget all the other aspects of road maintenance that councils are involved in, from clearing ditches to cutting verges to maintaining bridges.

“In the face of growing traffic volumes and ageing infrastructure the danger is that without an adequate long-term funding settlement we will see more rather than fewer bridges with weight restrictions, with the backlog bill getting bigger all the time.”

The LGA responded to the findings, calling on central government to put greater funding into supporting the UK’s road network.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA transport spokesperson, said: “This survey underlines the chronic need for more investment in local roads. The backlog of repairs on existing roads is predicted to be £14bn within two years and it would currently take 14 years to fix the backlog of potholes.

“Over the remaining years of the decade the government will invest more than £1.1m per mile in maintaining national roads – which make up just 3% of all total roads. This level of investment contrasts starkly with the £27,000 per mile investment available to councils in maintaining local roads, which are controlled by councils and make up 97% of England's road network.”

Cllr Tett also said that the UK was at a “competitive disadvantage” due to its poor roads, saying that the condition provides poor value for money.

He added: “Virtually every ‘national’ journey starts and ends locally, which means the road network is not working as well as it could for people in their corner of the country.

“Recent flooding events have shown how vital bridges are in linking together communities and enabling shoppers and local traders to go about their business.”

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