2019 RSTA Spring Conference

The RSTA 2019 Spring Conference will be held on the 11th April 2019 at the Belfry Hotel and Resort, Sutton Coldfield. With 250+ delegates from across the highways industry and a full speaker programme on the theme “Are Britain’s Roads Open For Business”, followed by the annual golf event (or country pursuits), awards evening and gala dinner. For more details, click on the link below

RSTA Spring Conference 11th April 2019

 

DROP IN POTHOLE NUMBERS WELCOMED BUT NOT CELEBRATED

News that the number of potholes on local roads in the UK has significantly fallen is welcomed but should not be celebrated said the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

New data obtained under that Freedom of Information Act by Insurance Emporium has found a 27% drop in the number of potholes on the local road network from over 1 million in 2016 to 780,000 in 2018.

“Whilst local authorities, who are faced with long-standing and continued budgetary cutbacks, are to be congratulated in reducing the number of potholes, the fact is that potholes are a failure to undertake planned programmes of maintenance. A well-maintained road will not have potholes”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive.

He continued: “Successive governments have failed to understand the economic and social importance of a well-maintained local road network and have failed to provide local authorities with the necessary assured funding to carry out planned programmes of maintenance. The result is that councils are playing a never game of pothole patch-up.”

Harper pointed out the economic folly of this approach explaining that: “It costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs an average £52m2 to repair potholes”.

Regular planned programmes of preventive maintenance would significantly improve the road network. The 2018 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance found that 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 road network up to a reasonable standard. Worryingly the survey also found that English councils have seen a marked decrease in road surfacing frequency reporting, on average, for all classes of road, a jump from once every 55 years, to once every 92 years. For unclassified roads the leap is even more pronounced – going from 87 years, last year, to once every 132 years. Figures for Wales also show a dramatic change, with a figure of once every 71 years now reported for the frequency of resurfacing for all roads.

“Patching up the road network and filling potholes is all very well, but had local authorities been able to invest in planned maintenance then the potholes would not have been there in the first place,” said Harper.

VARYING COUNCIL POTHOLE REPAIR TIMES UNDERLINE NEED FOR NATIONAL POTHOLE DEFINITION

A new analysis of the different times taken by councils to repair potholes has underlined the need for a national pothole definition. The analysis raises the question of when is a pothole not a pothole and if it is a pothole when is it large enough to warrant repair?

The analysis, undertaken by the RAC Foundation, found that Cumbria, Flintshire and South Lanarkshire councils aim to act ‘immediately’ to repair potholes that pose the greatest risk to the state of the road and the safety of drivers and riders. However, Coventry City Council’s stated policy is to aim to intervene within five days.

Between the two extremes, Harrow Council sets a target repair time of half an hour, while a further 16 councils aim to patch things up within an hour, and five within 90 minutes. The most common response time to the most urgent problems is two hours, with 79 councils looking to patch up the road within this timescale.

The analysis was based on Freedom of Information data from 190 of the 207 local highway authorities in Britain.

The significantly different response times taken by local authorities to repair potholes underlines calls from the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) for a national statutory standard definition of what comprises a pothole. “The lack of a national pothole definition means that we have a postcode lottery of road repair as different local authorities take different approaches. There is no consistency,” said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. Under the Road Traffic Act 1980 local authorities have a duty of care to properly maintain their road network but within the Act there is no national definition or agreement as to when a pothole is a pothole.”

The RAC Foundation found that while 37 local highway authorities said they would investigate further when a pothole was between 20-30mm deep, 26 said the depth had to be at least 50mm or more.

Harper went on to warn: “Councils taking a risk-based approach to repair the worst potholes first will be of little comfort to those cyclists dislodged by a pothole or those motorists whose vehicle is damaged by a pothole that does not meet the risk criteria of the individual council. We need a national definition of at what depth and width a defect is recognised as being a pothole. This would enable a consistent road maintenance risk assessment, intervention and repair approach.”

GOVERNMENT TRAFFIC STATISTICS UNDERLINE NEED FOR GREATER ROAD MAINTENANCE INVESTMENT

New government statistics underline the pressures that the poorly maintained local road network is facing and the need for greater investment in maintenance to ensure that the network can cope.

The latest Transport Statistics Great Britain 2018 from the Department for Transport reports that in 2017 the road network carried 327.1 billion vehicle miles. The vast majority of this was on ‘A’ roads and minor roads which carried 147.2 billion vehicle miles and 111.9 billion vehicle miles respectively.

The pressures are forecasted to increase. The latest DfT’s Road Traffic Forecasts 2018 predict a further traffic increase of up to 51% by 2050.

“Decades of under investment means that our road networks are unable to cope with the impact of current high traffic levels let alone a predicted increase of 51%. This is confirmed by the unacceptable high levels of potholes and deterioration,” said Mike Harper, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “The lack of investment means that some £9 billion is necessary just to bring the condition of the current local authority roads up to an acceptable standard, without any additional investment necessary for future increased capacity.”

He continued: “Local authorities are facing severe budgetary pressures that means they are unable to commit to the necessary investment for long-term road maintenance. If the road network is to be able to cope with the traffic demands being placed upon it then the government must provide more funding for road maintenance.

In addition, a funding framework giving certainty over a longer planning period (say 5 years) would enable asset managers to make longer term decisions and plan for proper preventative maintenance by treating surfaces before problems occur. The £420 million recently announced for pothole repair is welcome as extra funding, but as it has to be spent by March 2019, will result in patch and mend rather than properly planned surface treatments. It is this planned maintenance, carried out at the right time of year, that would protect a much larger area of the network and reduce ongoing occurrences of potholes.”

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.”