Growing Potholes Backlog Demonstrates Need For Targeted Investment

The backlog of repairs required on local roads in England and Wales has risen to almost £10 billion, according to research published today.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey reports that for the second consecutive year, local authorities’ highway maintenance budgets have increased by almost 20 per cent.

However much of the additional funding is being spent on ‘patch and mend’ work, that temporarily fills potholes but fails to improve the resilience of road surfaces in the longer term. The one-time cost of fixing the entire network across England and Wales has risen to £9.7 billion, but at the current rate of repair, it is estimated that it would take a decade to clear the backlog.

In addition, there are significant variations to the level of money in local authorities’ budgets, ranging from £9,000 to £90,000 per mile of road surface. The study found that although councils are now filling potholes at a rate of one every 17 seconds, nonetheless local roads are resurfaced just every 67 years on average.

Commenting, CECA Director of External Affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “This study shows that there needs to be a step-change in how we approach funding for repairs and maintenance on our local roads network.

“Currently, despite increased investment, the network is failing at a faster rate than councils can repair it. Planned, preventative maintenance on local roads is twenty times less expensive per square metre than reactive work, such as filling potholes and patching surfaces.

“We need to move away from a model in which we are patching and repairing a network that is deteriorating faster than it can be fixed under the current system.

“The only way to do this is by implementing targeted investment to fix underlying problems as a long-term approach to repairing and maintaining the network. The backlog of repairs isn’t going away, and UK road users deserve a longer-term approach from Government that will actually fix the problem, rather than just papering over the cracks.”