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25 March 2024
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Danger from potholes is getting worse, says report

UK's local roads 15 years from failure, £16.3bn needed for repairs; government's £8.3bn resurfacing plan covers only 5,000 miles.


Potholes have been the curse of transport firms for many years now – and it appears that the problem is getting worse. According to the latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (Alarm) survey report, the majority of local roads are 15 years from structural failure, with councils facing a shortfall of £16.3 billion to fix carriageways plagued by potholes.

The report also shows that fewer than half (47%) of roads in England and Wales are classed as being in good structural condition. The remaining 53% – more than 107,000 miles – will not last beyond the end of the next decade.

Last November, the Government announced its ‘biggest ever’ road resurfacing programme, with £8.3bn redirected from HS2 to local highway authorities.

However, that was enough to resurface only around 5,000 miles over an 11-year funding period. Based on survey responses from almost three quarters (72%) of local authorities in England and Wales, they say that they would have needed an additional £1.22bn – an average of £7.2 million per authority – in 2023/34, just to reach their own target road conditions.

Despite highways teams reporting an overall increase in carriageway maintenance budgets, they say they have also been hit by the impact of rising costs due to inflation, meaning they have been able to do less. Together with the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, the rate at which the network is deteriorating is accelerating, despite £143.5m being spent filling two million potholes over the past 12 months.

A report published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) suggests that roads are only resurfaced, on average, once every 80 years. It estimates that it would now cost £16.3bn to tackle the backlog of carriageway repairs and bring the network up to a standard from which it can be maintained efficiently and cost-effectively going forward. Last year, the AIA reported a repair bill of just over £14bn.

AIA chair Rick Green believes that there is a ‘mountain to climb’ when it comes to improving the condition of local roads.

While the transport secretary stated that this additional £8.3bn over 11 years is enough to resurface 5,000 miles of local roads, this equates to just 2.5% of the network – or less than 0.25% per year

he said.

Unfortunately, it will do little to address the scale of the issue with Alarm findings reporting that 11% of local roads are already in poor condition and likely to require maintenance in the next 12 months alone.


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