An annual survey has identified more than 24,400 miles of roads across England and Wales that are in need of ‘essential maintenance’ in the next year.
Each year the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) commissions a survey of highways departments in all local authorities in England and Wales to build a picture of the general condition of local roads.
The 2018 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey estimates that 18% of England’s road network (excluding London) is in poor structural condition – meaning they have ‘less than five years’ life remaining’ – compared to 23% in London and 17% in Wales.
These figures represent a year-on-year rise of 1% in England (excluding London) and 7% in London. However, the figure in Wales fell by 1% from the 2016/17 survey.
However, the 2018 survey also highlights a reduction in the estimated ‘one-time catch-up cost’ to get roads in England and Wales back into reasonable condition – from to £12.06bn in 2016/17 to £9.31bn this year.
The percentage of roads in good condition – meaning they have 15 years of more life remaining – stands at 54% in England (up from 53%), 51% in London (up from 45%) and 55% in Wales (up from 51%)
The funding gap between what local highway teams received and what they actually needed to repair and maintain roads also narrowed last year – down from an average of £4.3m per authority to £3.3m.
However, this means that councils are £556m short of what is required to keep the network in ‘reasonable order’.
Rick Green, chairman of the AIA, said: “Although local authorities report an increase in average highway maintenance budgets this year, looking back over the last decade they have barely kept in line with inflation.
“This is reflected in road condition, with one in five of our local roads now classed as structurally poor – with less than five years’ life remaining – compared with one in six reported last year.
“We accept that there is no magic wand to wave, nor is there a bottomless pot of money to tap into. There are difficult choices to be made at both local and national level but the Government needs to provide adequate funding for a well maintained and safe local road network if it wants to support communities and drive economic growth.”
The RAC says the report shows it is ‘time for some fresh thinking when it comes to finally getting on top of Britain’s pothole problem’.
Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “Short term funding and creating pots by which local authorities can bid for cash doesn’t appear to be addressing the root cause of the problem.
“Instead, the Government should be looking at how it can guarantee councils the certainty of reliable long-term funding so that they can finally bring every road up to a standard road users think is acceptable.”