Chris Ames 12 October 2020

AA highlights local road spend disparity

The AA has accused some councils in England of doing ‘next to nothing’ by way of maintenance on their road network.

The motoring organisation analysed Department for Transport statistics on local authority roads that received maintenance in 2018/19, broken down by road class and type of treatment.

It said this shows that 1,711 km (0.6%) of the 28,627 km of council-maintained A-road network was strengthened, with 2% resurfaced and 3.6% receiving a surface dressing treatment.

Out of the council-maintained network of 267,923 km of minor roads (B, C and unclassified) in England, 8,549 km received some type of maintenance treatment.

The AA accused councils like Blackpool unitary authority and Blackburn with Darwen UA, who each repaired around a thousandth of their networks, of being ‘big scrooges’.

Blackpool repaired just 0.033 km of its 41.8 km of A road in 2018/19 (0.08%) – and carried out no A road repairs in 2017/18 – while Blackburn with Darwen repaired 0.073 km of its 55.8 km of A road in 2018/19 (0.13%) and again did no A road repairs in 2017/18.

The AA also identified ‘big fixers’ such as Lincolnshire and Somerset, who repaired 107.6 km of 1054.8 km (10.2%) and 87.2 km of 645.6 km (13.5%) respectively.

The data shows that around 90% of Lincolnshire’s A road maintenance was surface dressing, which covered 8.9% of its network.

AA president Edmund King said the statistics’ show just how vast is the difference between councils when comparing the amount of road repairs they carry out’ and warned that ‘for quite a few local authorities, a bad winter will quickly lead to a plague of potholes’.

He said: ‘Pot-holed pavements and roads can also be dangerous for those currently being encouraged to walk and cycle more, as well as for motorbike riders. For those on four wheels, potholes can cause costly damage to tyres, wheels and suspension – leading to compensation claims and a needless drain on council finances.’

Local Government Association transport spokesperson Cllr David Renard said: ‘Councils work hard to keep our roads as accessible as possible throughout the year and fix a pothole every 21 seconds.

‘There is a range of factors that will determine the extent of the repairs that councils will carry out on local roads. For example, the budget available, the cost of repairs and local impacts from severe weather.’

The basic data also fails to take account of asset management plans, which aim to secure the best long-term value from maintenance. Successful asset management would mean fewer reactive repairs and better overall condition to begin with.

Blackpool Council, for instance, has been praised in the past for making major long-term investments in the network to bring down the amount of repair work done in future and improve the condition.

The AA said the statistics also show big regional differences, with Yorkshire and Humber and the East Midlands each repairing 8.35 of their A roads but London managing only 1.9%.

This article first appeared on Transport Network.

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