William Eichler 09 January 2017

Pothole repair bill to reach £14bn

This year could be a ‘tipping point’ for potholes, council chiefs warn as road repair bills are projected to reach £14bn within two years.

New analysis by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) revealed the overall road repair bill has been steadily increasing in recent years. In 2012 it was £9.8bn and last year it had risen to £11.8bn.

If it continues to rise at this rate, it will be £14bn by 2019 - three times councils’ entire annual revenue spending on highways and transport (£4.4bn).

The pothole repair time - an estimate of how long it would take to repair all potholes - has also increased dramatically, the AIA found. It has surged from an estimated 10.9 years in 2006 to 14 years in 2016.

It estimated the average local authority would have to pay £69m to bring its roads up to a reasonable condition.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the Government to inject an extra £1bn a year into road maintainance, paid for by investing 2p per litre of existing fuel duty.

The LGA also noted there is a large gulf between Whitehall’s investment in national roads and local roads. National roads receive £1.1m per mile in investment, whereas local roads, which make up 97% of the road network, get £27,000 per mile.

This funding gap puts the country’s businesses at a competitive disadvantage and provides poor value for money, argues the LGA.

‘This year could be a tipping point year regarding potholes and councils, who have experienced significant budget reductions, now face the looming prospect of a bill of £14 billion to bring the nation’s roads up to scratch,’ said Cllr Martin Tett, LGA transport spokesman.

‘It is wrong and unfair that the Government allocates almost 40 times more to maintaining national roads, which it controls, compared with local roads, which are overseen by councils. It is paramount this funding discrepancy is swiftly plugged.’

Alan Mackenzie, chairman of AIA, said: ‘Prolonged under investment, coupled with wetter winters, increased traffic and an ageing network, means that the resilience of our local roads is at a low point.

‘Clearing the maintenance backlog is impossible without a significant increase in funding.’

‘The fact remains that our local road network receives only a fraction of the funding allocated to the Strategic Road Network (SRN) and this disparity needs to be tackled proactively if further decline is to be prevented,’ he continued.

‘Reallocating a few pence from existing fuel duty might prove an equitable way of turning the tide, as could previous calls for Vehicle Excise Duty to be redirected to local roads from 2021.

‘Either way, the LGA is right that time is running out and that local roads maintenance should now be a national priority.’

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