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MANCHESTER CYCLIST ROAD MONITORING INITIATIVE WELCOMED

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed the Manchester-based initiative where 180 cyclists are trialling the use of a combined bike light and road condition monitor.

Developed by See.Sense, the monitor uses sensor-derived data that make the light flash more brightly and quickly at risky situations such as busy junctions or roundabouts. It also crowdsources data on the road surface condition and records near- miss potential accidents. The aim is to increase safety by collecting road environment and condition data for analysis by CityVerve, Manchester’s Internet of Things (IOT) smart city consortium.

The decline in the state of road surfaces is one of the main factors behind a significant increase in the numbers of cyclists being killed or seriously injured according to the CTC, the national cycling charity. Statistics from the Department for Transport show that in the year ending March 2015 3,410 cyclists were killed or seriously injured compared with 3,383 a year earlier. A further 16,760 cyclists were slightly injured. Commenting on the figures, CTC said that the rise in deaths and injuries was due to an increase in traffic, rising number of cyclists and the continued deterioration in road surfaces.

“This initiative is to be applauded. The data gathered by the cyclists should prove useful in providing a true picture of the state of Manchester’s roads”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive.

He continued: “Cyclists are amongst our most vulnerable road users. For them a deterioration in the road surface can result in serious, life-changing injuries. There is currently a £12.1 billion backlog of local road maintenance. Despite the government providing £6 billion to maintain local roads over the next six years, the backlog, continued cuts in funding and the ever increasing use of roads means that local councils are fighting a losing battle and find it difficult to keep pace with the level of road repairs required.”

NATIONAL POTHOLE DAY: THE VITAL STATISTICS

As part of National Pothole Day 2017, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has published a compendium of facts and figures behind the UK’s deteriorating local road network together with a call for action to address the sorry state of affairs.

The 2016 statistics, pulled from a wide range of sources, underline the result of decades of under-investment in maintaining the UK’s most important infrastructure asset. According to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey it would cost £11.8 billion and take 14 years to fix the current backlog of pothole repairs. The Local Government Association reports that the government plans to invest £1.1 million per mile of motorway and trunk road which accounts for just 3% of the total road network yet will spend only £27,000 per mile on local roads despite their making up 97% of the total road network and carrying two-thirds of all traffic. Meanwhile, motoring organisation RAC states that last year 31,483 compensation claims for vehicle damage were submitted against councils and the AA reports that 39% of its members’ vehicles have suffered from pothole damage.

“The evidence is there for all to see, and for tyres and axles to be damaged despite the best efforts of councils in repairing over 2 million potholes last year. The magnitude of the task due to decades of under-investment means that the local road network continues on its downward spiral”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

RSTA has called for a number of actions to address this continued deterioration. This includes government realising the need for proper levels of predicted, long-term maintenance funding that should be ring-fenced for local road spending and investing an additional annual £1 billion that come from providing an additional 2p from the existing fuel duty. In addition, all local highway authorities should sign up to best practice asset management to ensure that they have the most cost-effective maintenance approach and all road users should keep up the pressure by reporting all potholes that need repair.

“National Pothole Day is about focussing attention on the poor state of our local road network. The facts and figures compiled by RSTA underline how necessary that focus is”, said Robinson

‘Potholes: The Vital Statistics’ is available as a free download from www.rsta-uk.org

ROADS MAINTENANCE SECTOR BACKS CALLS FOR EXTRA £1 BILLION A YEAR

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) supports calls by the Local Government Association (LGA) to address the decades of under-investment in the local road network by injecting a further £1 billion a year into roads maintenance. The additional funding could be found by investing just 2p per litre of the existing fuel duty without any need to increase fuel duty rates.

LGA has made its call following analysis that shows the pothole repair bill could reach £14 billion within two years. The total amount needed to bring the country’s local road network up to a reasonable standard has been rising as the impact of under-investment is compounded by the demands of increase traffic growth. In 2012, is was estimated that £9.8 billion was needed to repair the pothole backlog. This rose to £11.8 billion in 2016. At this current rate is it predicted to rise to £14 billion by 2019.

The LGA points out that over the remaining years of the decade the Government will invest more than £1.1 million per mile in maintaining national roads – which make up just 3 per cent of all total roads. This level of investment contrasts starkly with the £27,000 per mile investment in maintaining local roads, which are controlled by councils and make up 97 per cent of England’s road network.

“The result is that routine road maintenance budgets have to be cut and the state of local roads will continue to deteriorate in comparison to the well-resourced national road network”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

He continued: Cash strapped local highway authorities are doing what they can and over the last year they have filled in over 2 million potholes. However, the lack of assured real long-term funding means that much of this is expensive reactive repair rather than cost-effective preventative maintenance that would have prevented the potholes from forming in the first place. This has long been the logical economic argument forwarded by the road maintenance industry. It costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road for 10 years but costs an average £57m2 to repair one pothole.

A further £1 billion annual investment would certainly help local authorities tackle the damage done by under-investment by successive governments.”

REACHING FOR THE STARS WHILE ROADS CRUMBLE

Government plans to place Britain at the forefront of space and modern transport are undermined by its continued lack off real investment in maintaining the road network. Commenting on the proposed Modern Transport Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech, Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) said: “Before we start reaching for the stars, let’s get the fundamentals right like repairing our potholed, deteriorating road network”.

The Bill proposes legislation for the future development of Britain’s first commercial spaceport and to enable driverless cars to use roads by the end of this decade.

“It all sounds very futuristic and modern. However, there is a £12 billion black hole of essential road repair and maintenance to be carried out before we start considering commercial space flights”, said Robinson. “Failure to address decades of under-investment in road maintenance means that we would have a third world road network serving an out-of-world space port”.

ROADS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE

The results of a new survey that has found seven out of ten drivers aged over 50 believe that the condition of UK roads has declined over the years should come as no surprise says the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

Saga Car Insurance surveyed some 10,000 drivers and found that a high proportion do not believe that enough is being done to repair potholes. Eight out of ten respondents say that overall road maintenance has got worse.

The survey found that the worst roads are in Yorkshire and the North West, the West Midlands and Scotland. The best roads were reported to be in Wales, London and the North East.

“The SAGA survey provides an interesting insight as it asks motorists who have the driving experience that enable them to compare the condition of roads over several decades,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive. “The lack of real investment in road maintenance during those decades is evident by today’s estimated £12bn cost to repair the backlog of existing potholes.

It is not so much a case of fondly remembering the past but worrying about your vehicle’s suspension as you hit another pothole.”

COMPETITION FOR ROAD FUNDING WELCOMED

Government proposals for local highway authorities having to compete for funding have been welcomed by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

The Department for Transport proposals, announced by Roads Minister Andrew Jones, set out a pilot scheme whereby councils will be allocated funds based on performance. Allocation of funds will be based on a set of criteria that includes asset management, efficiency, collaboration and customer satisfaction. Launching the pilot scheme Jones said: “Authorities that spend money on roads efficiently will be rewarded with extra funds to keep up the good work. While authorities with a history of inefficiency will receive comparatively less money”.

By the financial year 2018 – 19 the government proposes that over a quarter of road maintenance funding will be allocated on the basis of performance.

Welcoming the announcement, Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive said: “I am very supportive of the new approach aimed at encouraging authorities to treat their highways as a valuable asset that requires cost effective maintenance. Encouraging the development of registers and asset management plans seems eminently sensible.”

However, he warned: “There must also be recognition that not all highway authorities are starting from the same position in terms of expertise and resources. For example, implementing this new approach may be challenging for those authorities losing experienced highway engineers due to ongoing council budgetary cutbacks.” To assist highway authorities, RSTA supports asset management training and is currently developing new software that will enable highway authorities to obtain best value from using road surface treatments in a Life Cycle Analysis that includes factors such as regular planned maintenance aimed at maximising the service life of the road asset.

“The RSTA is working with highway authorities to ensure that road maintenance cost efficiency and long-term performance are achieved”, said Robinson.

INCREASED TRAFFIC FORECAST UNDERLINED NEED FOR WELL MAINTAINED ROADS

New traffic forecasts from the Department for Transport underlined the need for greater investment to improve the condition of the UK’s road network.

The ‘Road Traffic Forecasts 2015’ predict that levels of traffic will increase on motorways and major roads by up to 60% in 2040 compared with 2010 levels. For principal roads the increase from 2010 to 2040 could be as high as 51% and for minor roads the prediction is up to 54%. Car ownership is predicted to increase from 25 million in 2010 to 35 million in 2040, an increase of 42%.

“Decades of under investment means that our road networks are unable to cope with the impact of current traffic levels let alone an increase of between 50 to 60%. This is confirmed by the unacceptable high levels of potholes and deterioration”, said Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “Although the government is now making some attempt to address the situation the fact remains that £12 billion is necessary to bring the condition of local authority roads up to an acceptable standard. Local authorities in particular are facing severe budgetary pressures meaning they are unable to commit to the necessary investment for long-term road maintenance.”

He continued: “The condition of our local road network continues to be a major concern. The government’s own forecasted traffic increase should alert them to the need to invest more in road maintenance if congestion and potholes are not to remain the norm.”

Is devolution the way ahead for road maintenance?

Following the Scottish referendum, there has been much debate about devolving decisions not just for Scotland but also for Wales and the English cities and regions. Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) examines what this could mean for road maintenance.

The main reason for devolution is simple. It is focused on cities and regions wanting to be ‘masters of their own destinies’. As such they believe that they could deliver services more efficiently and effectively as local government is closer, more responsive and more accountable to local residents and businesses and can so more readily direct resources meet local needs.

For road maintenance a main devolution driver is financial certainty and control. Following the government’s 2010 Spending Review, the Department for Transport cut road maintenance budgets by £1.2 billion over four years from 2011 to 2015. Since then it has provided an additional £1.1 billion on nine separate occasions. Such separate funding allocation is inefficient as highway authorities have no certainty for long-term planning.

Realising that uncertainty hampers planning and allocation of resources, the Department has since set out its capital allocation for local road maintenance at £976m a year from April 2015 to April 2021. However, local highway authority spending on road maintenance was 7% lower in 2012-13 compared with 2010-11 after funding for all council services was slashed by the Department for Communities and local Government by 33% in real terms for four years from April 2011 and is set to fall by a further 10% in real terms from 2015-16 to 2020-21.

Devolution could see a step change in local taxation to provide funds for road maintenance. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development calculates that on average 17% of the money that UK councils spend is raised through local taxes. The average across the rest of the OECD is 55% with the amount of local taxation controlled locally or regionally being 10 times greater in Canada, 7 times greater in Sweden and nearly 6 times more in Germany. Faced with this imbalance between local control and central government’s unpredictable largesse it is small wonder that local government would like the devolved power to raise local taxes for local services. However, there is a potential problem. It could result in a patch work of well funded, well maintained roads in one UK region that are linked to poorly funded, poorly maintained roads in another. That would not offer the transport connectivity considered essential for economic and social well being. There is also the potential problem the local residents may not wish to be taxed for a service that not only they but also non-tax paying non-residents and non-local businesses benefit from.

For devolution to work there needs to be a high level of cooperation and collaboration between city and county councils. This in turn requires a new way of thinking that encourages long-term planning, innovative working practices, forward thinking asset management and the realisation of the economic benefits of group purchasing. For roads maintenance to a considerable extent this is already being achieved via the creation of a number of local highway authority alliances. These alliances are providing a template for local decision making, access to and allocation of resources. Their collaborative approach means that the potential problem of patchwork road standards should be avoided.

The calls for devolution will continue to grow as cities and counties no long want to look to Whitehall for resources and permission as they gain the belief and confidence that local government is best placed to deliver local services. For road maintenance the shift to the type of regional alliances that could deliver devolved planning and delivery is becoming well established with proven cost and efficiency benefits. However, before we venture down the road of full local control there is a caveat that once Whitehall has passed on the responsibility of not just maintaining roads but funding too it will not take it back if the local commitment and willingness to raise local taxes is found to be wanting.

Roads are getting better but we still have a long way to go

Slowly but surely the condition of Britain’s local road network seems to be improving according to a new survey. However, there remains a long way to go and it would only take a severe winter to underline the weaknesses of our road network warns the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

The latest National Highways and Transport (NHT) Public Satisfaction Survey shows a slight improvement of 3% in overall public satisfaction with the condition of the road network.  Of the 70,000 respondents, there was a 4% improvement in the level of satisfaction with the speed and quality of road repair and a 7% reduction in people who thought that the number of potholes had decreased.

Commenting on the survey’s findings, Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive said: “Against a difficult economic climate, local authorities and the road surface industry are working hard to address the problems resulting from severe underinvestment in our road network. The NHT survey reports that 34% of the public are satisfied with the conditions of local roads. However, that means that 66% are not.”

Increasingly, faced with continued budget cut backs and restraints despite some government funding increase, local authorities are working closely with the road surface industry for greater efficiencies. This has seen local authorities adopting initiatives forwarded by the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) and realising the benefits of asset management. For its part, the road surface industry continues to further develop best practice and new products that provide long-term performance and optimum solutions.

As part of the survey those local authorities who had made particular progress in improving their road network were congratulated. They included: Nottingham City Council, London Borough of Southwark, Blackpool Borough Council and Medway Council. Special mention was also made of Sheffield City Council and Clackmannanshire Council.

“The condition of our local road network continues to be a major concern. Local authorities are to be commended for the progress that they have made given the challenges of restricted budgets. Although the government has made some additional funding available it is yet to address the real problem of £12 billion necessary to bring our road network up to a reasonable standard”,  said Robinson.

UK Motorists get a raw deal

New figures from the RAC Foundation highlight the fact that motorists are paying four times more money in taxation than is being spent by the government on roads. This is simply unacceptable believes the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

The RAC report, ‘Public expenditure, taxes and subsidies: land transport in Great Britain’, shows that in 2013 £30.7 billion was raised from direct motoring taxation (excluding VAT). This included £24.8 billion from fuel duty and £5.9 billion from vehicle excise duty. However, in the same year just £7.5 billion was spent on the road network: £3 billion on motorways and trunk roads and £4.5 billion on the local road network.

“There is a substantial gap between the taxation levied on motorists and the amount the government provides for roads. The result is under investment and potholes,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

Some £12 billion is necessary to address the national and local backlog of repairs and potholes.

“UK motorists are getting a raw deal. They provide over £30 billion in taxes to the Treasury. It seems only reasonable that a fair share of that is invested back into the road network”, said Robinson.