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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

RSTA | A different approach to highway maintenance is still needed

Implementing a proactive asset management plan with treatment interventions at the right time saves around two thirds of the cost and importantly around 75% of carbon generation, according to Paul Boss, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

He was responding to the Budget this week that appeared to keep funding for infrastructure the same, but did not suggest an increases in the coming years. Mr Boss said: “We welcome the news that already challenging budgets to maintain the local road network appear to have escaped further cuts. The importance and value of a good road network are recognised by Government, businesses and all road users.

“Now more than ever, increasing numbers of roads asset managers are seeing the economic and sustainable benefits of whole carbon and cost lifecycle management and harnessing proactive surface treatments to maintain their networks, stretching their budgets and significantly reducing their carbon.”

He added: “Potholes are in themselves a failure to maintain roads with preventative surface treatments. Year after year council’s report how many potholes they fill in and it’s actually those that have the least potholes that should be applauded for properly maintaining their asset. Whilst additional finance is needed there are still thousands of potholes formed due to a lack of sustainable, efficient preventative maintenance being applied on good roads to keep them that way.

“Implementing a proactive asset management plan with treatment interventions at the right time saves around two thirds of the cost and importantly around 75% of carbon generation. With nearly all local authorities declaring a climate emergency, it is unbelievable many of them are still allocating ever increasing amounts to fixing potholes instead of stopping them forming in the first place. There has to be a change of direction otherwise ever deceasing allocations for preventative maintenance will lead to a spiral of ever declining roads. You would not look after your own property or car by only undertaking emergency maintenance when it breaks, so why do some local and national roads authorities insist on maintaining their roads in this way. It really does not have to be like this.”

Also responding to the Budget statement, Asphalt Industry Alliance Chair, Rick Green added: “It’s promising that the Chancellor’s speech today recognised the importance of sustained investment in infrastructure to keep the country connected, drive economic prosperity and support levelling-up. What remains to be seen is the level of funding that maintaining existing assets, including our vital local road network will receive – as a real term cut still appears inevitable due to inflation.

“Everyone relies on local roads, they underpin our communities and support goods and services, but our Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey 2022 highlighted that there was a funding gap of £1 billion last year to stop local road conditions from further decline and £12 billion is still needed to bring them up to scratch.

“The ongoing underfunding of roads maintenance is recognised by the public – with recent reports from both the AA and RAC highlighting increasing concern about declining conditions. We appreciate the Chancellor has difficult choices to make, but not investing in local road maintenance funding will lead to worsening conditions, which impact on other locally provided public services, and only lead to a rising bill to fix the problem.

“What would help in these challenging times is a longer-term stable and sustained funding horizon for maintenance budgets, as this would help local authority engineers plan effectively and be able to implement more efficient works to enhance the resilience of the local road network.”

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