Recent comments by the Roads Minister Robert Goodwill that potholes are to be welcomed as a sign of a booming economy underline how out-of-touch the government is when it comes to investing in a well-maintained road network.
Speaking on LBC radio last week as the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was announcing how an additional £168 million emergency fund for fixing potholes would be allocated to local highway authorities, Goodwill said: “More goods are travelling around as the economy improves. More people are travelling to work as they get jobs so this means the roads are getting more wear and tear.”
Commenting on this simplistic view of the deteriorating state of the UK’s road network, Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) said: “The real issue is the decades of under-investment in road maintenance that has resulted in a £12 billion bill to restore the road network to an acceptable condition. Massive under-investment means that we have a road network full of pot holes that is it not fit for purpose now that the economy is improving”.
Indeed the poor state of the UK’s road network is a hindrance to economic recovery. Local authorities are paying out over £32 million annually is compensation claims from road users for personal injury or vehicle damage. Nationally, the potholes cost the economy £5 billion a year due to reduced productivity, increased fuel consumption, vehicular damage and delayed deliveries.
“The economic truth is that the lack of real investment means that the condition of our roads continue to worsen. Piecemeal, unpredictable funding like the additional emergency pothole fund is not the way forward,” said Robinson. “Potholes are not a result of an improving economy but the inability of the government to recognise the result of decades of under-investment in the maintenance of the UK road network which just happens to be the nation’s most valuable asset.”