Fixing all the potholes in England and Wales would now cost more than £14 billion, according to a new study released this week. The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) annual report said despite increased budgets, local authority highway teams in England and Wales only received around two-thirds of the funding they needed to prevent further deterioration on local roads.
According to the industry body, the gap between what local authorities received and what they said they would have needed to prevent further decline is now £1.30 billion – an increase of more than 20 percent on last year’s figure and the highest amount reported in 28 years of successive AIA surveys.
As a result, the organisation says the cost of fixing the backlog of carriageway repairs is reported to have increased by a further 11 percent compared with last year’s record figure. That means the one-time cost has risen to a new high of £14.02 billion – the equivalent of £68,000 per mile of local road in England and Wales – and the AIA says the work would take 11 years to complete.
The annual study, which quizzes local authorities on the state of their roads and finances, received a record number of responses, with 75 percent of English and Welsh councils taking the time to fill out the survey. On average, the councils that responded said they would each need an extra £7.7 million each year to reach their own target road conditions.
With funding still in short supply, however, the survey shows just over half (51 percent) of local roads are reported to be in good structural condition, while the remainder could deteriorate to the point of needing to be rebuilt within the next 15 years. Almost a fifth (18 percent) of the network is already assessed as having less than five years of structural life remaining.
At present, the rate of local road resurfacing is so slow that were it to continue, local roads would only be resurfaced every 116 years on average. Yet the rate at which potholes are repaired is more impressive, with one filled in every 22 seconds despite the shortfall in funding.
Rick Green, AIA Chair, said: “Highway engineers can only do so much with the resources they are given and should be applauded for the steps they take to keep roads safe,” said AIA chair Rick Green. “Potholes and the condition of our local roads remain key issues for the public and the Chancellor went someway to recognising this in his spring Budget. But the additional £200 million one-off payment for local roads in England, while welcome, is just not enough. It represents around 20 percent of the average shortfall in English local authorities’ annual budgets and will do little to improve overall structural conditions and stem further decline.
“We all appreciate that there are difficult choices to make with demands and pressures on the public purse coming from every area, but not investing in local road maintenance only leads to worsening conditions, which impact on other locally provided public services, a rising bill to fix the problem and more road user complaints.”