Gloucestershire needs £600m and 15 years
It will take more than a decade and over half a billion pounds to get roads in the South West, including Gloucestershire, back up to scratch.
It would cost councils in the region an estimated £659 million and 15 years to get roads back to a reasonable standard, according to the councils that responded to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which runs the survey, said while the Chancellor’s additional £2.5 billion pothole pledge was a step in the right direction, it was not enough to plug the gap in local road maintenance budgets, let alone the rising backlog of repairs.
Councils in the south west have filled 250,643 potholes in the most recent year.
They’ve also had to pay out £2.1 million in compensation to road users as a result of highways issues.
Gloucestershire County Councillor Vernon Smith (C, Tewkesbury East), cabinet member for highways, said: “We are halfway through our five-year £150 million investment into highways; we have been delivering more resurfacing schemes than ever before, and using prevention techniques such as surface dressing to stop potholes from forming.
“Even though we have changed our service to focus on emergency repairs at the moment, we are still out there making the network safe for those who have to travel.
“That said, we cannot fix highways unless people report issues straight to us, so please go to our website and tell us about anything you spot on the network.”
The AIA said the Government’s £2.5 billion pothole pledge over five Thyears is a fraction of the estimated £11.14 billion over 11 years needed nationally, in time and money, to bring local roads up to a decent maintainable standard.
It also found English and Welsh local authorities are reporting a shortfall in carriageway maintenance funding of £826.6 million a year – equivalent to £4.9 million per authority – up 8 per cent on last year.
Average highway maintenance budgets were down 16 per cent this year, from £24.5 million in 2018/19 to £20.7 million per authority in 2019/20.
Roads across the country were found to be declining in quality.
This year there are 7,240 fewer miles of roads reported to be in a good structural condition (with 15 years or more of life remaining) and 1,100 more miles of roads classed as poor (with less than five years’ life remaining), bringing the total in this category to 42,675 miles.
Rick Green, chairman of the AIA, said: “Highway maintenance budgets have dropped back to where they were two years ago.
“Over the past 25 years we have repeatedly seen this pattern of short-term cash injections to stem accelerating decline, only to be followed by further years of underfunding. This stop-start approach has been wasteful and does nothing to improve the condition of the local road network on which we all rely.
“In fact, it has just contributed to a rising bill to put things right.
“The £2.5 billion extra funding over the next five years announced in the Budget will certainly be welcomed by hard-pressed local authority highway teams dealing with increasing demands on smaller budgets, as well as the effects of extreme weather events, such as the recent storms, on an ageing network.
“However, £500 million extra a year divided across English local authorities is a long way off the one-time catch-up cost of £11.14 billion that ALARM 2020 indicates is needed to bring our local roads across England, London and Wales up to a level from which they can be maintained cost effectively going forward.
“What’s needed is additional and sustained investment to help underpin the Government’s levelling-up strategy and social cohesion goals, as well as complement its ambitions for more sustainable modes of transport.
“Twenty-five years on and we are dealing with new and unprecedented challenges and understandably resources will need to be prioritised accordingly in the short-term. Looking ahead, however, a sustainably-funded, well-maintained local road network will be key to supporting recovery and regrowth.”