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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Road maintenance in England hits four year low damage caused to vehicles costs drivers £922 to fix


Resurfacing and treating of England's local roads has fallen to a four-year low, according to new figures.

Just 1,123 miles of roads were surfaced in the 2021/22 financial year, down 29 per cent compared with four years earlier (1,588 miles), says the RAC after its analysis of government data.


The motoring organisation said the figures 'confirm worst fears about the overall decline in the state of the country's roads' and many councils are 'barely scratching the surface' when it comes to getting their roads up to a reasonable standard.


In a separate report, Halfords said poorly maintained roads have had repercussions for almost half of drivers it polled who said their vehicle has been damaged as a result - and it costs them an average of £922 to fix.


As well as a huge drop-off in resurfacing of England's potholed and generally battered local roads, the RAC found an even greater decline in instances of 'surface dressing' - the term used when councils partially repair a section of tarmac, which is cheaper than completely resurfacing it.

This was carried out on 3,551 miles in total in 2021/22 - a 34 per cent drop from 5,345 miles repaired in 2017/18.


Of the 153 roads authorities included in the latest data, 31 per cent did no resurfacing while 51 per cent failed to carry out any surface dressing.


The average length of road resurfaced for all authorities over the 12 months was just 13 miles while it was 42 miles for surface dressing.


Kent resurfaced the most miles of A road at 29 of its 502 miles (5.8 per cent) while Lincolnshire did the most surface dressing at 50 miles of the 661 miles of A road in its area (7.6 per cent).

Looking at B, C and unclassified roads, Hertfordshire led the way in resurfacing by replacing 41 miles (1.5 per cent) of its 2,759 network roads and Norfolk topped the table in surface dressing by treating 326 miles of its 5,627 roads (5.8 per cent).


In percentage terms however, Southend-on-Sea resurfaced the greatest proportion of its 21-mile A-road network at 13 per cent (3 miles) while Blackpool surfaced dressed 43 per cent (11 miles) of its 26 miles of A-road.


For B, C and unclassified roads Tower Hamlets did the largest proportion of resurfacing at 14 per cent (21 miles of its 152-mile network) and Reading surfaced dressed 15 per cent (34 miles) of its 224-mile network.


The RAC said the figures demonstrate the need for the Government to change the way it funds local roads maintenance.


It wants a proportion of the money raised through fuel duty to be ringfenced to give councils certainty over long-term funding.


RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: 'These figures paint an incredibly stark picture of road maintenance in England and confirm our worst fears about the overall decline in the state of the country's roads.


'While the Government has made more money available to authorities to fill potholes, it's the general reduction in road improvement work that's causing potholes to appear in the first place.

'It's abundantly clear that councils in so many areas are barely scratching the surface when it comes to getting their roads up to a reasonable standard, and indeed the fact that such a large proportion haven't done any surface dressing or resurfacing at all over a 12-month period really does say it all.


'Resurfacing is expensive but for some roads this will be the only course of action as they have fallen into such bad condition that nothing else can save them.

'Having said that, we urge authorities to make greater use of surface dressing and other preventative treatments which can be used successfully to improve surfaces and extend the lives of roads.'


Last month, the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed that spending on fixing potholes on local roads in Britain had fallen faster than nearly all other major economies.

Annual road maintenance budgets in the UK were halved from £4billion to £2billion from 2016 to 2019, while several high-income countries increased what they spent by up to 50 per cent in the same period.


Local road repair budgets had dropped more in the UK than in nearly all OECD nations – a group of 38 'high income countries' – in almost two decades.


Annual road maintenance budgets in the UK were halved from £4billion to £2billion from 2016 to 2019, while several high-income countries increased what they spent by up to 50 per cent in the same period.


Local road repair budgets had dropped more in the UK than in nearly all OECD nations – a group of 38 'high income countries' – in almost two decades.


Spending in Sweden, Denmark, the US, Japan and New Zealand increased by around half over the same period, while budgets were protected in France, Finland and Canada.


The only OECD countries to see similar drops in spending to the UK are Italy and Ireland.

Shaun Davies, who chairs the LGA, said today: 'Decades of reductions in funding from central Government to local road repair budgets has left councils facing the biggest ever local roads repair backlog.


'This has been compounded by recent extreme weather as well as rising inflation, pushing up the cost of materials such as bitumen.


'In order to support motorists, the Government should take this opportunity to work with councils to develop a long-term, fully-funded programme to bring our roads up to scratch.'


A Department for Transport spokesman said: 'It's for local authorities to maintain their highways, and to help them do that we're investing more than £5billion from 2020 to 2025, with an extra £200million announced at the Budget in March, to resurface roads up and down the country.

'We've also brought in new rules to clamp down on utility companies leaving potholes behind after carrying out street works.'



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