The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has published a new statement making the road safety case for increased investment in local road maintenance. The statement is the first in a series of such underlining the social and economic importance of having a well-maintained local road network.
Decades of under investment in local road maintenance has resulted in a legacy of deteriorating road surfaces to such an extent that the 2018 Alarm Survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance reports that over 24,400 miles of local roads require essential maintenance. That equates to one-in-five roads being classed as being structurally poor and needing replacement within five years.
Such is the rate of deterioration that a recent AA poll found that 85% of respondents believe that the poor condition of roads is a safety issue. Poorly maintained roads, particularly pot holes, are a hazard for cyclists. Earlier this year Jesse Norman, Minister for Transport, reported that between 2007 and 2016 22 cyclists were killed and 368 were seriously injured in road accidents where the contributory factor was a “poor or defective road surface.”
RSTA points out that pot holes are not the only safety issue. Deteriorating levels of skid resistance is also a major concern. The Department for Transport calculates that 27% of the local authority roads need ‘further investigation’ for possible inadequate skid resistance.
“Highway authorities have a legal duty to maintain the road network to a reasonable standard. However, ongoing budget cuts means that they do have the resources to carry out essential programmes of maintenance. This means that the poor condition of our local road network is becoming a road safety concern”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive.
Robinson called on the government to inject a further £1 billion a year to address the £9.3 billion backlog of local road pothole repairs by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty.
“Government must ensure that local authorities are provided with assured, realistic levels of funding that enable them to carry out planned programmes of essential maintenance. Failure to do so may result in a road network that is increasingly unsafe to drive and cycle on.”
The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed calls from MPs for government to examine the ability of local authorities to ensure that the local road network is resilient enough to withstand prolonged heatwaves and not melt.
In its report ‘Heatwaves: adapting to climate change’, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee highlighted this summer’s issue of melting roads across the UK. It pointed out that previous heatwaves had a significant road maintenance cost. The heatwave of 2003 cost £49.6 million of necessary road repairs, £3.6 million of which was in Oxfordshire alone.
Most roads will not begin to soften until they hit a temperature of around 50C. However, even a sunny day in the 20Cs can be enough to generate 50C on the ground as the dark asphalt road surface absorbs a lot of heat and this builds up during the day with the hottest period between noon and 5pm. With temperatures regularly reaching the high 20Cs, the bitumen in some road surfaces may soften and rise to the top. This makes the road surface sticky and more susceptible to pressure loads from heavy vehicles resulting in surface ridging and rutting.
The response from local highway authorities is to send out gritters to spread granite dust to absorb the soft bitumen and so stabilise the road surface and make it less sticky.
Following a heatwave in 1995, the road industry introduced a new asphalt specification introducing the use of polymer modified binders in hot rolled asphalt (HRA). These polymers raise the asphalt road surface softening point to around 80C which prevents it from softening under extreme hot weather. Other asphalt products such as thin surface course systems also normally contain polymer modified binders.
However, such modified asphalts tend to be more expensive and are generally only used on heavily-trafficked roads such as the motorway and trunk network of which only 50% is surfaced with the most heat resilient material. The percentage of local roads treated with heat resilient asphalts is much less at an estimated 5%.
“MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee recognised that very few car journeys start and end on the strategic road network. It is the local road network on which the vast majority of journeys are made yet the heat resilience of this network is clearly unable to cope with prolonged high summer temperatures,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive. “Local highway resources do not have the funding to address the problems of freezing in winter and the resultant potholes let alone the repair of roads melting during the summer.”
He continued: “Today, most road surface dressings used to seal road surfaces and restore skid resistance contain polymer modified binders which resist softening during periods of hot weather. Unfortunately the continued lack of investment in the local road network and the increased pressure on local authorities’ reduced budgets means a significant reduction in planned programmes of surface dressing road maintenance. The result is a road network unable to cope with either winter or summer weather.”
With the skid resistance levels of over a quarter of the local road network reported to be questionable and requiring further investigation, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) is calling for greater use of high friction surfacing (HFS).
The latest Department for Transport Road Conditions in England reports that, over the three year period 2014/15 to 2016/17, 27% of the local road network has questionable skid resistance levels. The London Boroughs had the highest proportion of the road network requiring further investigation, at 48%. Skidding resistance figures do not necessarily reflect safety levels on the network but do indicate sites where further investigation is required.
“The greatest potential for increased accidents due to reduced skidding resistance is at road junctions approaches to traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and roundabouts as well as road stretches that have high accidents levels”, advised Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “In addition to regularly surface dressing their roads, local authorities need to ensure that these potential accident hot spots are made as safe as possible with the use of high friction surfacing”.
High friction surfacing is a proven road surface treatment that increases skid resistance and reduces braking distance thereby reducing the potential for accidents. With a skid accident reduction of over 50% its success speaks for itself: it saves lives and money. Treatment with high friction surfacing makes potentially high risk road locations far safer for both drivers and pedestrians and the financial savings of achieving this are considerable. With the associated accident and investigation costs of non-motorway fatal accidents calculated to be £1.4million, the application of high friction surfacing offers considerable financial value.
However, despite the benefits of high friction surfacing over the last few years there has been a serious decline in its use due in large part to local authorities’ misplaced concerns about service life, durability and increasing costs. “When installed correctly HFS has an average service life of 8 – 12 years. With regards to cost, since the 1980’s the cost of HFS has been able to be balanced against a broader savings strategy with allocated accident investigation and prevention budgets proving the investment savings from high friction surfacing against the cost of accidents and casualties”, said Robinson.
RSTA has developed ADEPT endorsed industry best practice guidance and approved by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and the Institute of Highways Engineers approved training courses to ensure best practice installation of this potentially life-saving road surface treatment.
The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has reacted with concern at the findings of new analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) that by 2020 almost 60p in every £1 that people pay in council tax may have to be spent on social care leaving less to fund essential road maintenance. This is up from 41p in 2010/11.
The analysis underlines the strain being placed on council’s budgets as they struggle with ever decreasing government funding. By 2020, local government in England will have lost 75 pence out of every £1 of Revenue Support Grant funding that it received from government to spend in 2015. Almost half of all councils – 168 councils – will no longer receive any of this core central government funding by 2019/20.
Government plans to allow local government as a whole to keep all of its business rates income by the end of the decade are in doubt after the Local Government Finance Bill, which was passing through parliament before the election, was not reintroduced in the Queen’s Speech.
“By 2020 it is predicted that only 5p in every pound of council tax will be spent on roads and street-lighting,” warned Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “The result will be more poorly maintained roads and more portholes.”
He continued: “Local government in England faces a £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020. The Government must recognise that councils cannot continue without sufficient resources that enable adequate funding for all areas of council services.
The local road network is a council’s most important asset yet they are forced to ransack their highways budget to fund other services.”
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.”
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
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.”
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”.
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.”
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.