Roads in the UK at a 'breaking point' as repair costs hit record high

Roads in the UK at a 'breaking point' as repair costs hit record high
Roads in England and Wales are at ‘breaking point’ according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) due to potholes.

The AIA Alarm Survey has found that more than half of the local road network in England and Wales could fail in the next 15 years as the amount needed to fix the backlog of repairs reaches a record high of £16.3 billion.

Further analysis of the data found that local authorities are expected to fix more than two million potholes in the current financial year.

This is an increase of 43% compared to the previous 12 months.

It is also the highest total since 2015-16 – where around 2.2 million potholes were fixed in England and Wales.

Currently, only 47% of local roads are in ‘good structural condition’ and over 107,000 miles of local roads have less than 15 years’ structural life left in them.

Rick Green, Chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which commissions the ALARM survey, said: “Local authorities have a bit more money to spend this year but the impact of rising costs due to inflation means they have actually been able to do less with it.

“Couple this with the effects of the extreme weather we are increasingly facing, and the result is that the rate at which local roads are suffering is accelerating towards breaking point.

“There’s still a mountain to climb when it comes to fixing our local roads and while it’s great that English local authorities should be getting more money from the Government through its Network North funding, it’s clearly not going to be enough to halt the decline.”

Green continued: “The Transport Secretary was quoted as saying that the additional £8.3 billion over 11 years is enough to resurface 5,000 miles of local roads. This sounds like a lot, but not when you consider that there are already more than 34,000 miles identified as structurally poor, with less than five years’ life remaining.

“We need to get to the point where local authority highway engineers can plan and proactively carry out repairs and preventative works in the most timely and efficient way to the greatest benefit of all road users – rather than just having enough money to address immediate and urgent needs.”

Following the release of the report, RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “The findings from this report send the clearest signal yet to the Government of the critical state of so many of the roads used by millions every day.

“By the Government’s own admission, the extra £8.3bn from the cancelled parts of HS2 is only sufficient to resurface around 5,000 miles of road, which is sadly just 3% of all council-managed roads in England. With this report showing an estimated 107,000 miles of roads are fast reaching the end of their lives, the scale of the problem now facing councils is truly gargantuan.

“The fact government data shows road maintenance is actually declining at a time when the precise opposite is needed, is even further evidence that councils don’t have the funding they need to look after these most important assets.

“The status quo is not sustainable. The longer the Government fails to grasp this reality, the bigger the eventual cost to the public purse.

“Only a commitment to introducing ring-fenced roads funding for councils will get them out of this dire mess. Without it, our roads will only get worse.”

To help highways authorities understand where the problems on their networks are, the RAC has partnered with technology company Metricell which has developed a free mobile app that uses AI to automatically identify road defects via smartphone cameras.

After downloading the app, all users have to do is mount their phone safely in a cradle and set it to film the roads as they drive. The results are fed into a national map on the RAC and Stan websites showing the health status of the UK’s roads as either red, amber, or green. The app can also be used to submit photos of potholes and other surface defects.

What do you make of the survey? Have you noticed a decreasing quality in the roads across England and Wales? Leave your comments below.

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