Cost of pothole and carriageway repairs in Wales and England increases by nearly a quarter in 12 months to £12.64 billion
The backlog of carriageway repairs to fix local roads in Wales and England has reached £12.64 billion up from £10.24 billion in just 12 months.
The figure is the equivalent of £75.7 million for every local authority or £61,700 for every mile of local road in England and Wales, a new report reveals.
The ALARM survey, published today (March 22, 2022) by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), highlights the scale of the worsening issue faced by highway engineers who have to make difficult choices about keeping local roads open and safe versus improving overall conditions.
This has led to the reported backlog of carriageway repairs increasing by almost a quarter on last year’s figure to £12.64bn – the equivalent of £75.7 million for every local authority in England and Wales.
The proportion of total budgets allocated to highway maintenance in 2021/22 is down on the levels reported in ALARM 2021.
In Wales, the share of total local authority spending on highway maintenance has fallen from 4.5% to 3.0%, the report states.
In England (not inc London) it has fallen from 5.5% to 5.1%.
The average frequency for all classes of road resurfacing now stands at once every 70 years, with a road being resurfaced today not likely to be so again until 2092
Over the last year 1.7 million potholes were filled in England and Wales – the same as last year – equivalent to one every 19 seconds.
Overall, £107.4m was spent filling potholes in 2021/22 and the total spent over the last 10 years is more than £1.04 billion.
Almost one in five local roads could need to be rebuilt in the next five years – nearly 37,000 miles of the network.
Rick Green, AIA Chair, said: “Local authority highway teams have a legal responsibility to keep our roads safe, but do not have the funds to do so in a cost effective, proactive way.
“As a result, while they report some slight improvements in surface conditions, the structure of our roads continues to decline.”
“Although surface repairs have a part to play in extending the life of local roads, short-term fixes, including filling potholes, is indicative of a network that is ‘on the edge’ and less efficient and sustainable when it comes to materials usage and whole-life carbon emissions.”
“The link between continued underinvestment and the ongoing structural decline and below-par surface conditions of our local roads is clear.”
“The country’s ambitions to encourage active travel, plus cutting waste and carbon emissions, will not be achieved with a short-term approach that can’t deliver a first-rate local road network.”
North Wales Senedd Member Carolyn Thomas, the former Flintshire Council Cabinet Member for Streetscene – the department responsible for roads, said the issue was due to years of funding cuts.
Speaking to BBC Radio, she said: “We’ve had 10 years of cuts due to austerity which has impacted.”
“In Flintshire we used to have six highway depots, we’ve gone down to one now and we only have so much funding available to do the work.”
“We need major investments from the UK treasury to all councils because that really hasn’t happened over the last 10 years to properly surface roads so that they last.”
She said: “Even if you patch, like cutting and then filling with hot boiling hot tar, it lasts a bit longer, but you could be talking just five years.”
“When you are trying to stretch your money all the time, with a highway assets management programme, you have to categorise where the money is going because you only have a small pot, you have to make it last or go as far as possible.”
She said: “A Roads get done first because they’re the most used, then you work your way down to the minor roads and then the lanes, but the pavements have not had been looking for years, there’s a battle for pavements (repair funding) as well.”
“I had a very frustrating time as a Cabinet Member and a Councillor battling against austerity, we desperately need funding for highways.”
The RAC said it attended over 10,000 pothole-related breakdowns last year, the highest annual total since 2018.
RAC patrols were called out to a total of 10,123 breakdowns for broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers through last year, 10% more than in 2019 and 19% more than in 2020.
Last year’s total represented 1.5% of all the RAC’s call-outs, which is up from 1.2% in 2020.
The RAC Pothole Index, which analyses pothole-related breakdowns together with the seasonal effects of the weather to give a true long-term indication of the condition of the UK’s roads, now stands at 1.63, up from 1.48 at the end of September 2021.
This means drivers are more than one-and-a-half times more likely to breakdown after hitting a pothole today than they were when the RAC started collecting this data back in 2006.
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