The government’s strategy for roads funding has been branded “a failure” after money was used repeatedly to fill in potholes and not address the resilience of the network, according to a report.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) said inconsistent funding has resulted in wasteful patch and mend repairs, with local authorities unable to implement more cost effective, proactive repairs.
The AIA’s annual local road maintenance (ALARM) survey said the legacy of erratic funding in England and Wales was preventing highways engineers from being able to provide long-term solutions for road users.
The ALARM survey said there had been a 15% increase in highways maintenance budgets, due in part to the additional funding from central government, including the Pothole Fund, as well as supplementary pots to support changes as a result of Covid-19 needs and active travel ambitions.
The Pothole Fund meant councils received £500m earlier this year to fix holes in the country’s roads, after research found motorists believe them to be a bigger problem than drink driving.
But the AIA said budgets were still lower than they were two years ago and road conditions had yet to see any significant improvement.
Rick Green, AIA chair, said: “The last year has been like no other and the ‘hidden heroes’ responsible for maintaining our local roads should be proud of the role they played working throughout the pandemic to keep our key workers and emergency services moving, supermarket shelves stocked and vaccines distributed.
“While the extra funding in 2020/21 was welcomed, using it to repeatedly fill in potholes is essentially a failure as it does nothing to improve the resilience of the network.
“The average frequency of road surfacing is now once every 68 years and the bill to fix the backlog of maintenance work on our local roads in England and Wales remains in excess of £10 billion.
“It is clear that a longer term approach to local road funding is needed, similar to the five-year commitment made to the strategic road network in the two Roads Investment Strategy (RIS) periods, to allow local authority highway engineers to plan ahead and implement a more proactive, sustainable and cost effective whole life approach to maintaining the network.”
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “We are all very aware of the massive shock there has been to the public finances as a result of the pandemic.
“However, the condition of our roads is a long term issue.
“Potholes are not just an issue because of the cost to drivers, they present a risk to people’s safety.”
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