STATEMENT RE TODAY’S BUDGET

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.”

“Making Warm the Norm” – the case for Warm Mix Asphalts bolstered by award nomination

Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) partners – MPA Asphalt (Mineral Products Association) and Eurobitume UK– in conjunction with National Highways – secured a nomination for a prestigious sustainability award.

Shortlisted in the Delivery Category of last week’s National Highways Industry Awards for Excellence in sustainability, environment, and carbon reduction; through the implementation of a technological change, the nomination recognised the significant role their collaborative work has played in delivering a Specification for Highways Works (SHW) revision, now enabling a move to making Warm Mix Asphalts (WMAs) the default specification on the strategic road network.

The adoption of WMAs can make an immediate contribution in reducing the carbon emissions associated with asphalt production, plus a range of other site health and safety benefits, with no compromise on product quality. If adoption was the default across all highway authorities, there is the potential to provide significant annual carbon savings nationally.

“Our nomination acknowledged years of cumulative effort from across the MPA Membership, supply chain partners Eurobitume UK and major client, National Highways, as well as invaluable support from a number of local authorities who provided trial sites to help build the evidence base for WMAs,” said Director, MPA Asphalt Malcolm Simms.

“Despite not lifting the top Award, the adoption of WMAs represents an opportunity to make a difference, so we’ll continue to encourage all Highway Authorities to join National Highways’ approach and move to default specification of WMAs through their contractors and suppliers.” he added.

More information on the benefits of WMAs can be viewed here.

A short video on WMAs can also be viewed at: https://youtu.be/8K7rG87z8t4

Paving the way for lower carbon roadworks

The Government’s low carbon agenda has moved another step forward with today’s announcement by Highways England to encourage the use of Warm Mix Asphalts (WMAs) as standard on our key routes.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which represents the asphalt industry, welcomes the move which could help cut the CO2 emissions associated with asphalt production by up to 15%1.
The use of WMAs also saves time and money and reduces disruption for road users. And, although WMAs now account for a significant proportion of the asphalt laid worldwide – almost 40% of production in the USA and over 15% in France – uptake in the UK has previously been hampered by red tape and the need for expensive and prolonged approval processes for its use.
Rich Green, Chair of AIA said: “The AIA has long-advocated the role that WMAs can play in reducing carbon emissions, improving efficiencies and delivering health and safety benefits. This includes our support in 2019 of the All Party Parliamentary Group’s (APPG) for Highways (now renamed the APPG for Better Roads) ‘Working for Better Roads’, report which encouraged the uptake of WMA solutions
including by the removal of practical and procurement barriers that prevented its use.
A lot of the research and development of WMAs has already been proactively supported by, and delivered on roads managed by, Local Authorities in partnership with AIA Members to help build the confidence in using these materials.
1 Using WMAs can reduce CO2 emissions associated with asphalt production by around 15% depending on specific product and plant
“This move by Highways England will reduce time and costs associated with seeking specific approval and will pave the way for the wider adoption of WMAs on local roads which represents 97% of the total network – delivering scalable carbon reduction benefits.”
Ends
For more information, please contact:
Samantha Stagg or Madeleine Hardman, AIA press and information office:
T: +44 (0)207 222 0136; M: +44 (0)7977 019648
E: info@asphaltuk.org; W: www.asphaltuk.org

Inconsistent roads funding leads to quick fixes rather than long term solutions

Maintaining roads to target conditions is still out of reach for local authorities in England and Wales despite an increase in highway maintenance budgets, reports this year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey.

The ALARM survey, published today (March 31, 2021) by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), shows that the legacy of inconsistent funding in England and Wales is still preventing highway engineers from being able to provide long term, cost effective maintenance improvements for local roads.

The 26th survey reports a 15 per cent increase in highway maintenance budgets which were, in part, due to additional funding from central Government, including the Pothole Fund in England, as well as supplementary pots to support changes as a result of COVID-19 needs and active travel ambitions. However, budgets reported are still lower than they were two years ago, and road conditions have yet to see any significant improvement.

This up-down approach to funding results in wasteful patch and mend repairs as local authorities have a statutory duty to maintain the highway but don’t have the scope or certainty of funding to implement more cost effective, proactive repairs. This is borne out by the large increase in the number of potholes filled over the last 12 months in England and Wales, the equivalent of one being filled every 19 seconds.

Local authorities also report that, despite the increase in budgets, target road conditions still remain out of reach. If they had enough funds to meet their own targets conditions across all road types, there could be an additional 14,400 miles of local roads in a good state of repair and another 2,000 fewer miles in need of urgent repair.

“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,” said Rick Green, Chair of the AIA.

“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.

“This commitment is vital to the nation’s post-pandemic reset in which we will rely on our local road network to support recovery and underpin active travel and levelling-up goals.”

AIA Chair comments on today’s Budget

“Our local road network has a vital role to play in supporting our communities and economic growth as we reset after the pandemic. What was needed from the Chancellor today was a five-year commitment to investing in local roads, to allow local highway authorities to plan ahead and implement a more cost-effective whole-life approach to upgrades and maintenance.

“It is completely counterproductive, just weeks after announcing a £500m pothole fund for the coming year, that local authorities are now finding out that other funding streams that they rely on to maintain their local road networks are already being cut.  We recognise difficult choices are having to be made at present, but this giving with one hand and taking away with another’ doesn’t make sense – it will only lead to deteriorating road conditions and a rising bill to put them right.”

AIA Chair comments on pothole fund allocation

“Potholes are a symptom of an under-appreciated and underfunded network. To keep essential services across the country moving and looking to recovery post-COVID, what’s needed is further sustained investment in effective road maintenance. That will help improve the condition of our local roads to prevent potholes from forming in the first place.

“Last year our Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey 2020, reported that it would now cost £11.14[1] billion to bring our roads up to scratch – up from £9.31 billion the year before.  So, while cash-strapped local authorities will no doubt welcome this year’s allocation from the Pothole Fund, it is still a fraction of the amount that’s needed and will not address deteriorating conditions and the rising bill to put it right.”

[1] Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey 2020 reports that the estimated one-time catch-up cost to get roads back into a steady state, from which they can be maintained cost-effectively going forward in line with asset management principles is £11.14 billion. See https://www.asphaltuk.org/alarm-survey-page/

 

Road statistics provide food for thought

Updated road-related statistics are now available to view on RoadFile at www.roadusers.org.uk .

Covering topics from road network lengths and funding to traffic volume and regional trends, Roadfile is a hub for publicly available data and is delivered by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

AIA Chair, Rick Green said “RoadFile is a one-stop resource for some of the latest data from sources such as the DfT and Eurostat. Being able to analyse the data sets alongside allows users to review trends and will provide a great deal of food for thought for those across the highway sector.”

For example, between 2010 and 2019, traffic volumes on Great Britain’s roads have increased by over 50 billion vehicle miles a year (16.6%), with a growth in numbers of registered light and commercial vehicles of 28.5%. This suggests an increasing importance to our economy, even before the pandemic, of the ‘final mile’ for deliveries in the e-commerce age.

ALARM 2021 local authority submissions will help underpin future decision-making on road maintenance

“This spring will see the publication of the 26th consecutive Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, which investigates the effects of funding and maintenance levels on the condition of local roads across England and Wales, as well as the funding necessary to deliver against targets.

“ALARM helps to keep the issue of local road maintenance firmly in the spotlight and we know its findings are used by stakeholders across the sector for tracking, benchmarking and planning purposes.

“As we look ahead to the next financial year, plus the spending round to come, we know that there will understandably be continued pressures on the public purse. That’s why, even in these challenging times, we are urging local authorities to respond to the survey. This will ensure it continues to provide robust and credible data that can help underpin future decisions on local road maintenance spending and support the allocation of resources.

“We sent out the survey questionnaire to local authority contacts in England and Wales before the Christmas break and the AIA team are currently busy liaising with our contacts on submissions. If anyone requires any help or guidance completing the survey or would like more information on our ALARM survey or the AIA, please email info@asphaltuk.org.”

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

Comment on implications for local roads following Autumn 2020 Spending Review

Rick Green, Chair, Asphalt Industry Alliance, commented:

“Our local roads played a vital role in keeping the country functioning this year, supporting the emergency services and facilitating the distribution of food and goods, and today’s funding announcements reflect that the Government recognises the need to invest in the local road network as we build back better.

“While these spending commitments are welcome in these challenging times, we are aware that the sums outlined will not be enough to plug the existing multi-billion pound backlog in road maintenance funding and so our ageing network will continue to decline.

“What’s needed going forward is an additional investment of £1.5 billion a year for 10 years, to improve the experience of all road users, support recovery and deliver a much-needed boost to the economy.”