The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has appointed Mike Harper as their new Chief Executive from 1st January 2019. Harper takes over as Dr Howard Robinson steps down after nearly 10 years in the role, during which time the RSTA has grown to represent 87 member companies that provide surface treatments and techniques to maximise the service life of UK roads.

Harper said: “Howard has very much become the figurehead of the RSTA over the last decade and has represented the interests of our members with many of the major highways client bodies. The RSTA provides quality guidance and impartial advice as well as training hundreds of highways engineers every year throughout the UK, and I look forward to leading the organisation as we continue to support our clients and members.

“The role of surface treatments is key as highway authorities strive to maximise their maintenance budgets through asset management and seek to take on board the new guidance in the “Well Managed Highways” code of practice. The RSTA provides help and support for a wide range of pavement repair and protection techniques to stretch those scarce financial resources whilst maintaining a safe highway network.”

Harper has 30 years experience in highways materials and joins the RSTA from materials specialists GCP Applied Technologies (formerly Stirling Lloyd) where he headed their highways activities. He has been active with the RSTA for the last 8 years on numerous committees, working groups and industry events, previously holding positions as a sector chairman (high friction surfacing), RSTA chairman in 2015, a former RSTA director and is the current Chief Technical Officer.

Dr Robinson said: “Mike and I have worked closely together over the last 8 years and Mike’s appointment as CEO from January provides a seamless handover for our members and clients in the many committees and working groups that we support. I wish him every success in the role”.

RSTA chairman, Kevin Amos from Eurovia, added: “On behalf of myself and the executive committee we are delighted to appoint Mike to continue driving the RSTA forward and having him in place immediately, alongside Howard until the end of the year, will ensure continuity for our clients and members”.


If you want to ensure that Britain is open for business then invest in a well-maintained local road network. This is the advice given to the Chancellor by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) ahead of the Autumn Budget.

In its ‘Making the case for investment in the local road network – the economic argument’, the RSTA explains that the local road network is the country’s greatest infrastructure asset. It comprises 183,000 miles, represents 98% of the total road network and is worth over £340 billion.

“A well-maintained local road is essential for the national economic prosperity of the country. It is the prerequisite link to the national road and rail network, to the ports and airports, between peoples’ homes and places of work,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Unfortunately, the Government has failed to recognise this and despite the vast majority of journeys being taken using the local road network, it has failed to match the expenditure provided to maintain the national road network with that provided to maintain the local road network. National roads and motorway maintenance receives 53 times more funding than local roads.”

He added: “Successive Chancellors have failed to do the maths and understand the economic folly of spending an average £52m2 to repair a pothole against the £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road and so prevent the pothole from forming in the first place.”

The result is there are over 24,400 miles of local roads that require essential maintenance. That equates to one-in-five local roads now classed as being structurally poor and requiring replacement within five years. (1)

RSTA supports its call for greater investment with the research and survey evidence from key industry organisations such as the British Chambers of Commerce, the EEF and the CBI who all report that their members believe the deteriorating state of the local road network is increasingly a barrier to business.

RSTA also reminds the Chancellor of the growing discrepancy between the amount that motorists pay in taxation and the amount that is spent on local roads. Motorists pay £58 billion in taxation to the Exchequer – £26.9 billion in fuel duty, £25 billion VAT on fuel and £6.1 billion for other motoring taxes. Against this just £2,06 billion is provided by central government as funding for local road maintenance. Furthermore, as it is not ring-fenced, the funding may not even be spent on road maintenance but on other council services as cash-strapped councils struggle to balance the books.

RSTA calls for a number of simple cost effective policy changes that would make a real difference. This include allowing the local road network to receive funds from vehicle excise duty – currently, the monies raised are only available for motorways and A roads – injecting £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 and ring-fencing local highway budgets. Starved of funding, by 2020 local councils will spend 60p in every £1 raised by council tax on social care leaving less to fund essential road maintenance.

“If the Chancellor is to show that he is really serious about improving the national economy then he must recognise the national economic importance of investing in a well-maintained local road network,” said Robinson.


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.”


A new Asset Management Group has been set-up by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). Aimed at local authorities, the Group will allow their highway departments to share best practice linked to the now mandatory Code of Practice – Well Managed Highway Infrastructure. The Code calls for a change in the way that road network is managed through the adoption of a risk-based approach. 

The Group has been established in partnership with XAIS Ltd, an asset management consultancy. It will develop and run a series of new courses on road surfaces and setting investigatory levels linked to road hierarchies. 

The first of these courses is on skid resistance. It will specifically focus on section B.5.6 of the Code and the recommendations for skid resistant surveys including setting the hierarchy, responsibilities, timescales and collating evidence. The course will examine how to develop a skid resistant strategy, how to measure skid resistance as well as the legal implications and liability risk. 

The two-day skid resistance course will run on 4/5th October in Wolverhampton, 17/18th October in Milton Keynes, 15/16th November in Bristol and 4/5th December in Doncaster. For registration and further information visit: or email: 

“The new group will enable local authorities to take the best approach towards adopting asset management and we encourage them to join”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Given that, according to Department for Transport statistics, 27% of local roads need further investigation of possible inadequate skid resistance, the course on skid resistance and investigatory limits and road hierarchies will provide highway departments with the knowledge of how to meet their legal responsibilities via a risk-based approach.”


Oxfordshire County Council has been praised for its decision to borrow £120 million to repair roads and other council assets. However, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) says that although the council is to be commended for its planned investment, it is a sad indictment of how the government’s budget cutbacks have forced the council to go into debt to pay for essential road maintenance. 

The council has made its decision following a report to the council’s cabinet that found lack of investment has resulted in a ‘significant reduction in quality of major and minor roads, as well as pavements, with an increase in car damage and personal injury claims’. The proposed investment will see £80 million spent on road improvements and £40 million invested in other council-owned assets. 

It is hoped that Oxfordshire’s expected growth in homes and subsequent annual £6million increase in council tax revenue will pay back the loan. 

“Oxfordshire County Council are to be commended for their decision to borrow to invest in road maintenance”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “The premise of investing in a well-maintained roadwork for economic return has been underlined by a recent West Midlands Road Condition Survey that found that an accelerated road maintenance programme would generate economic returns of £6.50 for every £1 spent. However, the council’s need to borrow additional funding proves that funding from central government is not sufficient to allow councils to fulfil their responsibilities.” 

By 2020, local authorities will have had a £16 billion reduction of core government funding since 2010. Continued funding restrictions means that by 2025 councils in England will face a funding gap of £7.8 billion. Faced with this, councils are trying to find new ways of funding and operating whilst still delivering essential services such as road maintenance. 

“The local road network is a council’s greatest infrastructure asset. A well maintained road network has significant economic and social benefits. Yet for years the government had failed to provide adequate funding for local road maintenance. The government should recognise the national importance of the local road network and increase investment accordingly,” said Robinson.


New government statistics have exposed the extent to which local highway departments are being forced to rob their transport budgets by hundreds of millions in order to fund social care.

The Local Authority Expenditure and Financing 2018-19 Budget: England, published by Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, shows that local authorities were forecast to spend £4.24 billion on highways and transport over 2017-2018. Yet, new outturn figures from the Ministry show that they actually spent £3.994 billion. This represents an underspend of over £240 million as councils raid their highway budgets to fund other services.

As the Government continues to reduce core funding, councils are facing significant funding pressures. The Local Government Association report that English councils will have an overall funding gap of almost £8 billion by 2025. Faced with increased social care demands that figure will certainly rise. As will the number of councils reporting severe budget deficits. Northampton Council has a shortfall of £70 million, Lewisham Council has a deficit of £13 million, Surrey, England’s richest county, has a shortfall of £100 million.

“Councils are being forced to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and as road maintenance budgets are not ring fenced this makes them an easy target,” said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “The result is the plague of potholes and deteriorating road surfaces seen across the country as councils struggle to fund programmes of essential maintenance. The local road network is a council’s most important infrastructure asset yet they are forced to ransack their highway budgets to fund other services.”

He continued: “Government must recognise that councils cannot continue without sufficient resources that allow funding for all areas of services.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) aims to raise the awareness of the benefits of road surface treatments and promote work force competence and safe working practices. Membership covers the whole supply chain and includes large national and regional contracting companies, Local Authority Direct Labour Services Organisations, materials and equipment suppliers, test houses and consultants. Members are required to be registered with the National Highway Sector Scheme 13 or HAPAS Product Certification and Approved Installers Schemes. For further information on the RSTA, its objectives, membership and programme of industry initiatives and training visit:


The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed proposals to provide local residents with more powers to veto or approve plans that affect their communities, but warns that when it comes to the issue of potholes the government should be careful of what it wishes for.

The proposals form part of the new Civic Society Strategy launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It calls for an ‘Innovation in Democracy’ pilot scheme in six regions across the country. This will trial creative ways for people to take a more direct role in decisions that affect their local area. This could include Citizens’ Juries or mass participation in decision-making on community issues via an online poll or app. These issues could include approval of new housing developments, closure of libraries or spending more to fix potholes.

“Throughout the UK local residents are already very vocal via social and local media about the poor state of repair of their roads. The government should be careful that formalising these concerns via local authority polls would underline the extent of the lack of road maintenance funding provided to local highway authorities”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive.

He continued: “Increased community involvement is to be welcomed but to be meaningful it must be supported by the necessary funding. Voters would be further disenchanted if poll findings for greater investment in local roads was met with ‘ah yes but we don’t have the budget’.”


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.”


Forecasted rain this week could make roads slippery after the heatwave warns the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

There are two reasons why motorists should slow down and drive with care on roads that are wet after a heatwave. Firstly, during periods of prolonged hot weather the bitumen in asphalt roads becomes more mobile and can sometime ‘bleed’ through to the surface. This reduces the texture depth and wet skidding resistance. In extreme conditions, like those experienced this summer, councils will apply grit to the road surface to increase its skid resistance. Secondly, dry roads often have a build-up of rubber and oil particles. When it rains these substances can mix with water and create a greasy layer that can become very slippery.

“Wet roads after a prolonged hot, dry period can become slippery. In addition to ensuring that their tyres are in good condition and properly inflated, motorists should slow down and drive with care”, warned Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

He continued: “Just like the freezing and ice of the winter, summer’s high temperatures underline how essential it is to ensure that roads are maintained to a correct standard. Unfortunately, continued cutbacks to highway budgets means that councils cannot afford the necessary programmes of long-term maintenance and surface dressing to ensure pothole-free, skid resistant roads.”


New Department for Transport (DfT) statistics underline the unprecedented demands being placed on our deteriorating local road network which, due to decades of under investment, is facing a £9.3 billion backlog of pothole repairs and is simply not up to the job reports the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

According to the recently published ‘Road Traffic Estimates: Great Britain 2017’, the total number of vehicle miles travelled grew by 1.3% in 2017 to 327.1 billion up from 323.7 in 2016. DfT predicts that this could reach 425.1 billion by 2040, a further 30% increase in traffic. This will have a significant impact on the condition of our poorly maintained roads.

Since 2016, traffic on ‘A’ road has increased 1.1% and by 1.4% on minor roads. Combined, the local network carried 66% of all traffic. Yet, despite this the motorway network receives 52 times more funding than local roads.

Despite the significant increase in traffic the level of funding investment to ensure that the local road network can cope is woefully inadequate. The latest Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM), published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, found that the rate of deterioration of the local road network is accelerating. 1 in 5 roads may need to be replaced within the next 5 years, it would cost £9.31 billion and take 14 years to bring the local road network up to a reasonable standard.

“As traffic levels increase so do the demands being placed on an under-funded road network”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive. “The lack of adequate assured funding for local road maintenance has resulted in a network where one in five roads, a significant 20%, may need replacing by 2023 – and that is just to cope with current traffic levels.”

“The government’s own figures show how the vast majority of traffic uses the local road network. They underline the need for greater investment in long-term programmes of preventative road maintenance rather than expensive patching-up,” explained Robinson who pointed out that it costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs an average £52m2 to repair potholes.