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Road repair backlog cost reaches £12bn – ALARM

Local authorities in England and Wales have warned of a ‘national road crisis’ escalating as the repair backlog bill on the country’s roads hits £12bn.

This year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, estimates that the cost to get the local road network in England and Wales back into reasonable condition has increased to £12bn, up from £10.5bn in 2013.

But the report highlighted that last year – for the second year in a row – more than two million potholes (2,010,749) were filled in England and Wales. The damage caused by this winter’s record rainfall, however, is predicted to have counteracted much of that work, with highways departments anticipating worse road condition to come.

Cllr Peter Box, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) Economy and Transport Board, said: “Councils have long warned that our already dilapidated road network could not cope with another extreme winter and the unprecedented recent flooding experienced across the country has left behind a trail of destruction to our highways. Our roads are now in such disrepair that it will take more than a decade and £12bn to bring them up to scratch.”

Around two-thirds (65%) of local authorities in England were recently affected by the winter deluge, although at the time the ALARM survey was conducted most were unable to estimate the cost of damage to their networks, with many roads still under water.

Alan Mackenzie, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, said: “These figures are disappointing for everyone who has worked hard together on the Highway Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) initiated by the Department for Transport. 

“It’s thanks to HMEP that so many highways departments have successfully made the case to their councils to invest in more repairs to avoid further deterioration and costs. To see that work washed away is discouraging to say the least.”

Other interesting figures from the report highlight that the average “estimated” amount of damage incurred by each English council by the floods was £1.6m; 18% of English roads are now classed as being in ‘poor condition’ with the figure rising to 19% in London; it would take 12 years to clear the repair backlog in England and Wales; and the average English authority faces an average £90m estimated one-time cost to brings its road up to a reasonable condition.

Cllr Box added: “This country is now facing a roads crisis escalating at an alarming pace with every bout of severe weather and following years of underfunding. The government’s own traffic projections predict a potential increase in local traffic of more than 40% by 2040. This further highlights the urgent need for increased and consistent investment in the widespread resurfacing projects we desperately need if we're ever to see a long-term improvement.”

He said that keeping roads safe is one of the most important jobs councils do and they have worked hard to fix another two million potholes in 2013, despite deep funding cuts and multi-million pound compensation costs for pothole damage.

The LGA stated that government has responded to its calls for extra funding to repair roads in recent months but it is simply “not enough to free councils trapped in an endless cycle of only being able to patch up their deteriorating networks”.

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