A decrease in highway maintenance budgets has caused the ‘one-time cost’ to get roads in England and Wales back into reasonable condition to rise to more than £11bn, according to a new survey.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) commissions an annual survey of highways departments in all local authorities in England and Wales to build a picture of the general condition of local roads.
The latest edition of the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, published on 24 March, shows local authorities saw highway maintenance budgets drop by an average of 16% in 2019.
As a result, 1.5 million potholes were filled, compared with 1.9 million in the previous 12 months – leading to the one time cost to get roads back into reasonable condition rising from £9.79bn to £11.14bn.
The survey also shows there are 7,240 fewer miles of road reported to be in ‘good’ structural condition, with 15 years or more of life remaining.
Rick Green, chair of the AIA, said: “Highway maintenance budgets have dropped back to where they were two years ago.
“Over the past 25 years we have repeatedly seen this pattern of short-term cash injections to stem an accelerating decline, only to be followed by further years of underfunding.
“This stop-start approach has been wasteful and does nothing to improve the condition of the local road network on which we all rely. In fact, it has just contributed to a rising bill to put things right.
“The £2.5bn extra funding over the next five years announced in the budget will certainly be welcomed by hard-pressed local authority highway teams dealing with increasing demands on smaller budgets, as well as the effects of extreme weather events, such as the recent storms, on an ageing network.
“However, £500 million extra a year divided across English local authorities is a long way off the one-time catch-up cost of £11.14bn that ALARM 2020 indicates is needed to bring our local roads across England, London and Wales up to a level from which they can be maintained cost effectively going forward.
“What’s needed is additional and sustained investment to help underpin the Government’s levelling-up strategy and social cohesion goals, as well as complement its ambitions for more sustainable modes of transport.”