The extreme winter weather experienced by much of the country earlier on this year caused significant damage to local roads. Councillor Peter Box CBE, Chair, Local Government Group Economy and Transport Programme Board, sees more funding as essential to better roads and community safety.
Councils, responsible for more than 95% of the road network, filled in more than two million potholes last year and, following the coldest December on record, face an enormous task to keep roads in a safe condition this year.
Following the severe winter of 2010/11, the estimated additional cost of road repairs is £362 million, on top of the previous year’s winter damage of £400 million. The damage this year came at a time when councils are being forced to scale back budgets for highways maintenance as a result of reductions in central government funding to councils. So it’s good news that government has listened to us and confirmed in the Budget an extra £100 million for councils to deal with the damage to roads. The additional money is on top of the £100 million announced in February, meaning councils will have an extra £200 million to fix potholes.
This will enable councils to prioritise work to repair the roads which is increasingly causing concern to their communities. The Department for Transport has notified councils how much funding they will each receive, and the repairs will take place over the next six months. Councils are also required to publish a statement on their website by 30 September 2011 setting out how the funding has been spent.
Whilst the extra funding for potholes is very welcome, there is a much bigger challenge around ensuring the sustainable funding of road maintenance at a time when public sector budgets are being squeezed. There is currently a £10.5 billion road maintenance backlog. Department for Transport funding for councils to repair roads will reduce by 19% over the next four years so that by 2014-15 councils will be getting £165 million less per year. Local government overall is facing a £6.5 billion funding gap in 2011/12 between what they spend on frontline provision and what they receive in income. With costs increasing for child protection, adult social care and waste management, it will be impossible for councils to makeup the shortfall in funding for road repairs.
In these straightened times our collective focus must be on developing and sharing more efficient approaches to road maintenance. Councils are already getting more efficient – the cost of repairing a pothole has fallen by one third since last year, or from £78 per pothole in 2009/10 to £53.81 per pothole in 2010/11. Local Government Group and councils are fully involved with the Department for Transport’s Highways Efficiency Programme, which is capturing and sharing innovation in techniques, procurement and equipment, alongside the Group’s wider efficiency programme for councils.
On behalf of councils, the Local Government Group is also calling for wider reforms which will help councils to improve the condition of roads. Firstly, we are arguing for government to give councils more freedom to raise money that can be invested back into road maintenance. We are pleased that government has granted councils flexibility to borrow against future income from taxes generated from new development, but we continue to press for the ending of separate bid-based funding pots and for the localisation of business rates as part of the government’s review of local government finance.
Secondly, councils need stronger powers to recoup the cost of damage to local roads and to manage the disruption caused by utility streetworks. The New Roads and Streetworks Act 1991 allowed for the Secretary of State to make provisions to allow councils to take a ‘bond’ or deposit from utility companies so that, if remediation works are not completed properly, recouping the costs would be easier. The Traffic Management Act 2004 made further provision to enable councils to require an undertaker to carry out full or half road width resurfacing following their works.
Councils would like to see both of these powers enacted to limit the long term costs and disruption caused by streetworks.
Thanks to extra government funding and the hard work of council employees, many of us will soon enjoy smoother journeys on our roads as thousands more potholes are filled. Councils are committed to delivering an ever better deal for the taxpayer and will continue taking tough decisions to ensure our roads are in the best possible condition. But the scale of the road maintenance backlog, combined with the unprecedented budget pressures, means central government must give councils the freedoms and powers they need to target money on the transport issues that matter most to their local communities.
2011 ALARM Survey
The results of the 16th annual local authority road maintenance (ALARM) Survey, confirmed a marked deterioration in local road condition, with the number of potholes over the last year tipping over the two million mark for the first time.
Three years of severe winter weather have revealed the fragile condition of the local road network, with road surfaces around the country deteriorating visibly to a serious degree. All but one of the ALARM survey participants reported that the prolonged freeze of early 2010 had a detrimental effect on their roads.
The ALARM survey 2011 revealed the cost of the 2010 winter damage estimated by local authorities to be £362 million, adding to the cost of the previous year’s winter damage of £400 million.
Between March 2010 and 2011 successive governments have made a total of an additional £300 million available to assist local authorities in repairing the severe damage to their roads. Serious funding shortfall signals danger. Authorities continue to report an annual shortfall in the highway maintenance budget they receive from central government. This year it amounts to £895 million, an increase of 12% on last year’s shortfall. Asked to estimate the level of one-off investment needed to get their roads back into reasonable condition local authorities estimated that £10.65 billion (aggregated across england and Wales) would be required. This is an increase of £1.15 billion on the amount estimated last year. Under funding of highway maintenance programmes is believed by 90% of local authorities to create a threat to road user safety.
AIA Chairman, Colin Loveday, highlights the industry’s growing concern: “Local authorities are doing what they can, but reactive maintenance – such as simply filling potholes when they appear – is at least 20 times more expensive than planned preventative maintenance.
“The annual shortfall in budget has increased this year and spending review cuts translate to a potential loss of another £440 million over the next four years. The additional £200 million announced in February and March this year is welcome but if the government wants to save the country money it should be investing in local roads now to save a massive repair bill later on.”
Potholes are often a sign of more serious underlying problems, says Loveday: “After several years of wetter winters and serious summer flooding which undermines the integrity of the road’s structure, our local road network is at its most vulnerable.”
The 2011 ALARM survey also asked highway engineers to evaluate the condition of the structural layers of their roads. in England, one in five local roads was considered to be in poor condition, ie have a remaining life of less than five years. In Wales 17% of roads were considered to be in poor condition and in London the figure was 25%.
For further information or to download the ALARM survey report visit: www.alarm-survey.co.uk
Repair and Relax – cold weather comfort
In the road maintenance industry, we’re all aware of what gets left behind when the snow clears. However, as the negative publicity over the rising amount of potholes in our road network continues, we must not forget that freezing weather also leads to other maintenance and safety issues, such as collapsed or failed ironwork.
The freeze-thaw cycle is to blame for many highway repair problems, most commonly, potholes. Yet, cracking road surfaces also mean the breakdown and failure of carriageway ironwork. This freezing weather combined with many other influencing factors, such as larger payloads and a 135% increase in traffic volume over the last 30 years, all lead to an increase in collapsed manholes and gullies.
Faulty ironwork accounts for a large number of problems including road traffic accidents and noise pollution, not to mention the severe disruption to traffic flow as repairs are carried out.
The number of manhole covers in the UK exceeds 6 million and it is estimated that over 70,000 of them are replaced every year, costing more than £40 million! Furthermore, up to 85% of manholes that are exposed to heavy traffic suffer one or more forms of failure and it is calculated that the cost to replace them all would exceed £3 billion!
The cost of replacing failed and collapsed ironwork falls into local councils’ highway maintenance budgets, alongside pothole repair and resurfacing.
Recently a 20% cut was announced in these budgets across the UK, so quick, easy and cost-effective solutions are a must. Ultracrete can offer the answer to these repair problems – with independently tested and certified systems and solutions for road repair projects.
Presently the repair of manhole covers is conducted on a reactive basis, frequently relying on the problem being reported in order for it to be addressed. This approach makes it increasingly difficult to assess and manage their state of repair, consequently failures continue to occur. it also makes it more difficult to calculate and substantiate spending to the regulator.
Launched just over a year ago, Permanent Pothole Repair has already assisted in the successful repair of 1000’s of potholes and has recently undergone testing for HAPAS certification via the BBA!
This is a significant achievement and marks the FIRST EVER certification that has been processed for a pothole repair material! The official presentation is set for the first day of the Traffex exhibition and will be made by the BBA at 11am on stand K31. Ultracrete’s Pothole Pete mascot will be attending to accept the award.
Ultracrete’s Permanent Pothole Repair has been specially formulated to include fully graded, high PSV interlocking aggregate, specially prepared bitumen and the latest in industry technology to ensure strong flexibility and guarantee the best product performance. it has a high skid resistance value (SRV) ≥ 88 for improved safety and exceptional durability and rut resistance for up to 12 months and beyond. Permanent Pothole Repair now has enhanced workability enabling it to be used straight from the tub even in cold and wet conditions. The product’s simple application method provides any contractor with a quick and effective way of repairing potholes.
For more information visit: www.ultracrete.co.uk