LGA Pothole repair funding

Commenting on the LGA’s analysis that highway maintenance funding in UK is one of lowest in OECD AIA Chair, Rick Green said: “It’s no surprise that the Local Government Association’s (LGA) analysis has found UK highway maintenance budgets at the low end of the OECD scale. The picture of managed decline reflects the findings of our Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, which has reported for many years on local highways budgets under pressure and the resulting impact on road conditions.  

“The link between continued underinvestment and the ongoing structural decline and below-par surface conditions of our local roads is clear. ALARM 2023 reported that it would now take £14.02 billion* – the highest recorded in 28 years of ALARM surveys – to tackle the backlog of repairs and bring them up to a condition from which they could be effectively managed going forward.

“We support the LGAs call for committed investment in local roads and a longer-term approach. The AIA also believes that more local highway budget ringfencing is needed to ensure that funds are directed to the type of works that deliver the best value for money, lower lifetime carbon impacts as well as enhancing conditions and improving the resilience of the local road network.”

Road statistics highlight reliance on local roads

Traffic on local roads is returning to pre-pandemic levels faster than on either the strategic road network or railways.

That’s just one of the trends highlighted on RoadFile, the online hub of road-related statistics delivered by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

The latest collated data forms part of a comprehensive update of publicly available information for the UK and Europe from sources such as the Department for Transport (DfT) and Eurostat.

RoadFile presents key information in an easy-to-use format with options to download the data to facilitate further analysis. It covers a broad range of topics such as road network, usage, funding, environment and safety.

The data shows that road-traffic (vehicle miles) in Great Britain was, unsurprisingly, significantly lower in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19 related restrictions.  A 21% decline in all road traffic is reported in 2020 compared to 2019, with buses and coaches seeing a 33% drop. Car and taxi traffic fell by 25% in the same period, while HGV traffic fell by just 6%. Usage of pedal cycles increased by 50% in 2020 on 2019 levels – but this was not sustained, with the reported data showing a subsequent drop off in 2021. 

Traffic levels in Great Britain in 2021 overall were at 83% of pre-pandemic levels, but, significantly, traffic on minor roads in 2021 had recovered to 91% of pre-pandemic levels, compared to 85% on the motorway network. 

For comparison, Roadfile also highlights that rail passenger numbers in 2021 were 60% of pre-pandemic levels, while funding statistics also show that for every pound from the public purse spent on the UK’s railways in 2022, less than half of that amount (45 pence) was spent on roads.

“RoadFile is widely used by those across the highways sector and beyond as it collates a wealth of road-related information in one, easy-to-access platform,” said AIA Chair Rick Green.

“It highlights the reliance, across all types of road transport, that we have in Great Britain and continues to raise questions about why local roads authorities in particular don’t receive a fairer deal when it comes to highway maintenance funding, to keep them resilient and fit for purpose.”

Comment on Spring Budget 2023

Commenting on the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, AIA Chair Rick Green said:

“The additional £200m one-off payment for local roads in England is welcome, but it’s a fraction of the amount local authorities have reported over decades that they need to keep their networks to target conditions, let alone tackle the backlog of carriageway repairs.

“The Chancellor is right to recognise that potholes on our local roads are a curse, but the key thing is they are not inevitable, they are the symptom off a network underfunded for many years. Unlike other transport networks, there is no visible long-term investment plan for local roads and without one, road users won’t see any real improvement in structural conditions on the roads they use every day and on which all other locally provided services rely.

“It will be interesting to see how the findings from our 2023 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey Report, to be published next week, build on the previously reported trends between underfunding and the declining conditions of our local roads.”

National Pothole Day

Commenting on National Pothole Day AIA Chair, Rick Green said: “It’s important to stress that, from a highway engineering perspective, potholes are not inevitable.

“They are the result of poorly maintained roads due to long term under-funding. Repeatedly filling potholes is indicative of a network on the edge and is less efficient when it comes to materials usage and carbon emissions than planned preventative maintenance.

“Everyone relies on local roads, they underpin our communities and support goods and services, but our Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey 2022 highlighted that £12 billion is still needed to bring them up to scratch.

“We appreciate that there are difficult choices to make, but not investing in local road maintenance only leads to worsening conditions, which impact on other locally provided public services, and a rising bill to fix the problem.

“A first step would be a longer-term funding horizon from central Government with more highway budget ringfencing. This would help local authority engineers to plan effectively and be able to implement more efficient works to enhance the resilience of the local road network.”

Comment on the Autumn Budget 2022

Please attribute comment to AIA Chair, Rick Green:

“It’s promising that the Chancellor’s speech today recognised the importance of sustained investment in infrastructure to keep the country connected, drive economic prosperity and support levelling-up. What remains to be seen is the level of funding that maintaining existing assets, including our vital local road network will receive – as a real term cut still appears inevitable due to inflation.

“Everyone relies on local roads, they underpin our communities and support goods and services, but our Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey 2022 highlighted that there was a funding gap of £1 billion last year to stop local road conditions from further decline and £12 billion is still needed to bring them up to scratch.

“The ongoing underfunding of roads maintenance is recognised by the public – with recent reports from both the AA and RAC highlighting increasing concern about declining conditions. We appreciate the Chancellor has difficult choices to make, but not investing in local road maintenance funding will lead to worsening conditions, which impact on other locally provided public services, and only lead to a rising bill to fix the problem.

“What would help in these challenging times is a longer-term stable and sustained funding horizon for maintenance budgets, as this would help local authority engineers plan effectively and be able to implement more efficient works to enhance the resilience of the local road network.”  

AIA Chair Rick Green calls for more support for local roads

“The last 12 months have been challenging for those responsible for maintaining our roads. Quite rightly they have been described as the “hidden heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic”[1], as they worked tirelessly to ensure that roads played a vital role in keeping the country functioning, supporting the emergency services and enabling the distribution of food and goods at the heart of the economy.

“As we look to build back better, we need to move away from the stop/start approach to local roads investment, in particular, which has been the pattern for too long[2] – it does little to improve overall conditions and only adds to a rising bill to put it right.

“Potholes are a symptom of an underfunded network. What’s needed is a longer-term approach to investment in effective road maintenance, which will improve the condition of our local roads and help prevent potholes from forming in the first place.”  

[1] Comment attributed to Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, speaking at our virtual Sharing Best Practice event see https://www.asphaltuk.org/asphalt-now/

[2] See Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey 2020 page 8

September 3, 2019 – AIA supports APPG Highways report on benefits of adopting Warm Mix solutions

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Highways has issued a report highlighting how the use of Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA) can reduce carbon emissions and improve efficiencies on highways projects.

The report – researched and funded by the AIA, which jointly supports the APPG on Highways – sets out how the use of WMAs can reduce CO2 emissions associated with asphalt production by around 15%, depending on product and plant.

WMAs are manufactured and laid at lower temperatures than traditional asphalts, using less energy and delivering meaningful carbon savings for road maintenance and construction projects without compromising performance. Their use also improves conditions for the workforce, and, as less time is required to cool to trafficking temperatures, carriageways can be re-opened earlier – minimising disruption for road users.

WMA already accounts for around 40% of production in the USA and over 15% in France, yet remains under-utilised in the UK, where it represents less than 4% of asphalt production.

Sir Christopher Chope OBE MP, Chairman, APPG on Highways, said: “Everyone has a part to play in tackling environmental issues for future generations and the majority of UK councils have already declared ‘climate emergencies’. This report aims to encourage those authorities which have responsibility for highways to put their support for environmental measures into practice without delay.”

Rick Green, Chair of the AIA, said: “Warm Mix Asphalts can provide solutions to deliver long-lasting roads that also help to meet the country’s low-carbon objectives. So far, take up in the UK has been frustrated by contract specifications and guidance which require prolonged processes for approvals and departure – it’s time to cut through these impediments so that highway authorities can seize the WMA opportunity.”

A full copy of the report can be found here.

APPG Meeting November 2018

AIA representatives recently attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Highways, which it supports.

The group, chaired by Sir Christopher Chope MP, welcomed speakers from Oxfordshire County Council – Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for the Environment (including Transport) and Paul Fermer, Assistant Director – Infrastructure Operations.

Cllr Constance explained to the Group how Oxfordshire has implemented a forward-thinking approach to investing in roads maintenance to improve conditions and save money in the long-term.

With a cut in the roads budget of 50 per cent since 2011, Cllr Constance set out how the forecasted increase in Council Tax that will be generated as result of the planned development of 100,000 new homes has been brought forward to be spent on road improvements.

She and Paul explained that the council had determined that the managed decline approach to road maintenance, imposed by budget constraints, sat incongruously with Oxfordshire’s ambitious growth plans and aims to improve transport links within the county, such as the key A420 which services many SMEs working between Swindon and Oxford.

As a result, the council now plans to use £10 million each year from its ‘growth dividend’ derived from the increasing numbers of new homes now paying Council Tax to implement a planned preventative approach to local road maintenance.

AIA Chairman, Rick Green said: “The APPG on Highways helps to keep the importance of local roads funding on the agenda. Oxfordshire’s invest to save approach will not only improve road conditions it also makes financial sense – as planned preventative maintenance is reported to be 20 times less expensive per square metre than reactive work such as patching and mending potholes”

Full meeting minutes and Cllr Constance’s notes can be viewed here.