Sixth of local roads will need replacing within five years, warns ALARM survey

A total of one in six local roads in the UK may need to be replaced in the next five years, Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA’s) annual ALARM survey has revealed, deepening existing council concerns for the state of the country’s roads.

In the report, which aims to take a “snapshot” of the condition of local road networks, 63% of local authority highway departments responded to questions on funding and maintenance being carried out on the network, finding evidence for significant problems in road structures across the UK.

The results of the survey announced that the one-time catch-up cost to repair all the local roads in the UK now stood at £12.06bn, whilst the annual carriageway shortfall was £730m and a pothole was filled every 19 seconds.

This news follows a revelation last week by the National Audit Office that at-risk road investment projects were at serious risk of falling through should no new funding be provided to do essential repair works.

Alan Mackenzie, chair of the AIA, said in the introduction of the report: “It’s not surprising then that the public believes improving the condition of our roads is a national priority. Unfortunately, as this latest ALARM survey again reveals, central government doesn’t seem to agree.

“Behind the smokescreen of big numbers aggregated over several years to make them sound impressive lies decades of underfunding which, coupled with the effects of increased traffic and wetter winters on an ageing network, means one in six of our local roads will not be fit for purpose in five years’ time.

“Local authorities need over £12bn to bring the network up to scratch – a figure that has remained largely unchanged for four years. And, even given adequate funding and resources, the time needed to implement this one-time catch-up remains well over a decade.”

As a result, he added, cash-strapped highway teams are forced to prioritise maintenance activity, with a “disastrous effect” on overall road condition.

“Although the number of roads classed as ‘good’ has increased in England and Wales, so has the number of those classed as ‘poor’,” added Mackenzie. “This is clearly not sustainable in the long-term and many highway engineers have warned of a tipping point ahead.”

Councils respond

Cllr Judith Blake, transport spokesperson at the LGA and leader of Leeds City Council, argued that it is becoming increasingly urgent to address the roads crisis the nation faces.

“Our roads are deteriorating at a faster rate than can be repaired and it would take more than £12bn and be 2030 before we could bring them up to scratch and clear the current roads repair backlog,” she explained.

“Local authorities fixed a pothole every 19 seconds again last year despite significant budget reductions leaving them with less to spend on fixing our crumbling roads.

“Councils are proving remarkably efficient in how they use this diminishing funding pot but they remain trapped in a frustrating cycle that will only ever leave them able to patch up our deteriorating roads.”

She also assured road users that councils shared their frustration at the declining state of local road networks.

“Our polling has shown that 83% of those polled would support a small amount of the billions paid to the Treasury each year in fuel duty being reinvested to help councils bring our roads up to scratch,” said Cllr Blake.

“Our roads crisis is only going to get worse unless we address it as a national priority. The government’s own projections show an 85.5% increase in congestion by 2040. Councils desperately need long-term and consistent funding to invest in the resurfacing projects which our road network needs over the next decade.”



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