ALARM survey shows pothole progress

ALARM survey shows pothole progress

An increase in local authority highway maintenance budgets is stemming the decline in the condition of the local road network, according to this year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey.

The survey, published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), notes that some 330,000 more potholes were filled than in 2017/18. For the second consecutive year, local authorities’ highway maintenance budgets have increased by almost 20 per cent. For councils in England and London this included a share of £420 million additional funding allocated in the November 2018 Budget.

The 24th ALARM report shows there are early signs that this extra money is halting further decline, but notes that the one-time catch-up cost to fix the network continues to rise. Some £24.5m was spent on short-term "patch and mend" work to 1.86 million holes, according to the report.

Rick Green, Chairman of the AIA, said: “While overall highway maintenance budgets are up, there is still a big discrepancy between the haves and have nots. Some local authorities received the equivalent of more than £90,000 per mile of their individual networks, while a third continue to struggle with reduced budgets, with several having less than £9,000 per mile to maintain their local roads.

“Achieving target conditions on all categories of local roads – those that we all rely on every day – still remains out of reach. To put this into context, if local authorities had enough funds to meet their own targets across all road types it would give us more than 20,000 miles of improved local roads.

“It is encouraging that those in control of the purse strings seem to have recognised the value that additional expenditure on roads can deliver. But it’s clear from the 29% increase in the number of potholes filled in England and London, that much of this has been used for patch and mend. This doesn’t provide value for money, nor will it improve the underlying structure and resilience of our roads.

“With the amount needed to bring the local road network up to scratch still approaching £10 billion, sustained investment over a longer timeframe is needed if we want a local road network that supports enhanced mobility, connectivity and productivity.

“Last year the AIA set out that £1.5 billion additional funding was needed for local roads each year for the next 10 years to allow them to be brought up to a condition from which they can be managed in a cost-effective way. We stand by this call.”

The Local Government Association says fixing roads is a priority. Martin Tett, transport spokesman, said:

"Faced with severe financial pressures, councils have managed to spend more on road repairs in the past year in order to fix a pothole every 17 seconds"

AA president Edmund King said:

"Increased funding and a milder winter presents an opportunity to begin to catch up on the backlog - but any slackening off will simply pitch our roads back into a deep hole."

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