PREDICTIONS OF COLD WINTER ARE BAD NEWS FOR LOCAL ROADS

Predictions of the coldest winter for eight years could prove to be bad news for the local road network. The Weather Company is predicting Britain’s worst winter since 2010-11 with temperatures falling to -21C. Exacta Weather are predicting a colder than average December with widespread snow. Meanwhile, the Met Office also believes that a predicted El Nino warming of the eastern Pacific could result in colder than usual temperatures in December and January. This is bad news for those highway authorities who have failed to properly maintain their road networks and for the motorists who use them warns the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

“A cold icy winter will have a detrimental impact upon our roads resulting in more potholes, particularly where local authority highway departments have not carried out proper road maintenance programmes”, warned Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

Potholes are caused by water or snow freezing in cracks in the road surface. The expansion of ice results in damage and breaking up of the road surface which is made worse by repeated freeze-thaw cycles. Budget constraints mean that many highway authorities are unable to carry out planned, comprehensive maintenance and are forced to adopt an expensive patch-and-mend approach.

Robinson called upon the government to provide local authorities with the necessary assured funding to carry out road maintenance: “Patch-and-mend defies economic logic”, said Robinson. “It costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs on average £52m2 to repair potholes. Expensive, emergency patch and mend repair of potholes is not a sensible use of highway budgets.”

A prolonged cold winter with cycles of freezing and thawing will be bad news for vulnerable roads. The government needs to provide the necessary funding to allow local authorities to invest in programmes of planned maintenance and so ensure that their road network is weather resilient”.

ROAD INDUSTRY WELCOMES PROPOSALS FOR LOCAL ROAD FIVE-YEAR SETTLEMENT

The Road Surface Treatment Association (RSTA) has welcomed proposals to develop a five-year funding settlement for local roads similar to that provided for the national road network.

The proposals were revealed by the roads minister Jesse Norman at the recent Highways UK event.

A business case is currently being worked on. It will examine the possibility of the Department for Transport (DfT) securing a long-term combined capital and revenue settlement. Such a settlement has long been resisted by the Treasury to provide the capital funding and will also require the support of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government who provide local authorities with the revenue funding for local roads. Neither funding streams are currently ringfenced but the ringfencing of Vehicle Excise Duty from 2020 for strategic roads suggests a dedicated fund might be possible for local roads too.

Welcoming the proposals, Howard Robinsons RSTA chief executive said: “We have long argued for a confirmed, long-term funding settlement for the local road network. This would provide a necessary level of certainty that allows local authorities to plan and implement long-term road maintenance programmes rather than play a never-ending game of pothole catch-up.

We hope that the business case currently being developed underlines the need for the country’s most important infrastructure asset to have the funding that it needs and deserves.”

ROAD SURFACE TREATMENTS ASSOCIATION BUDGET RESPONSE

The additional £420 million for local road maintenance announced in today’s Budget (29th October 2018) is welcomed but it is far short of the £9.3 billion necessary to bring the deteriorating local road network up to a reasonable standard. It is also only a small percentage of the £58 billion that motorists pay every year in fuel duty, VAT and other motoring taxes.

Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) said: “The reactive additional funding announced by Phillip Hammond shows that he has 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. The odd additional funding for pothole repairs is welcomed but it is no substitute for the long-term funding of road maintenance programme that would prevent the potholes from forming in the first place.”

Robinson points to the ALARM 2018 survey carried out by Asphalt Industry Alliance that found that 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.

He also questioned the Chancellor’s decision to award £28.8 billion to fund improvements on the national road network: “Whilst improvement to the strategic road network is welcomed. The Chancellor must understand that 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. Despite the vast majority of journeys being taken using the local road network, Government continues to fail 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 already receives 53 times more funding than local roads.”

RSTA is calling for a number of simple cost effective policy changes that would make a real difference. This includes allowing the local road network to also 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 and showing that post-Brexit the UK is open for business then he must recognise the national economic importance of investing in a well-maintained local road network. This budgets fails to do that,” said Robinson.

NEW CEO AT ROAD SURFACE TREATMENTS ASSOCIATION

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”.

CHANCELLOR ADVISED TO USE AUTUMN BUDGET TO RECOGNISE NATIONAL ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF LOCAL ROADS

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.

LOCAL ROADS UNSAFE TO DRIVE AND CYCLE ON

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.”

NEW ASSET MANAGEMENT GROUP FOR LOCAL ROADS

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: www.rsta-uk.org or email: enquiries@rsta-uk.org 

“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.”

COUNCIL PRAISED BUT GOVERNMENT CRITICISED

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 DATA SHOW HOW COUNCILS ARE FORCED TO RAID THEIR HIGHWAY BUDGETS TO FUND OTHER SERVICES

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: www.rsta-uk.org

LOCAL DEMOCRACY: BE CAREFUL OF WHAT YOU WISH FOR

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’.”