Author Archives: Sarah Knott

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS POTHOLE REPAIR TARGETS BEING MISSED

The potential danger to cyclists of poorly maintained roads has been highlighted by new research which found that only one-in-ten local authorities are meeting their own target times to fix potholes and road defects.

The research from Cycling UK found that out of 85 local authorities who responded to Freedom of Information requests, only 1-in- 10 successfully repaired all reported potholes. North Tyneside Council was one of the most effective authorities, repairing all 39,258 identified potholes on time between 2015-19, while Wakefield City Council was the worst performer, managing to fill only 13% of reported potholes on time. While no part of the UK performed well, 1 in 6 English authorities meet their target times of three weeks for non-urgent potholes. However, not a single responding authority in Scotland or Wales achieved this.

While potholes are a real problem for everyone who uses the roads, they pose a particular risk of injury to cyclists. At least 448 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on our roads over the past 10 years, with three deaths in 2018, the last year with available data. The charity has suggested that this is only the tip of the iceberg, with most crashes never reaching the statistics if no police officer attends the scene.

“Cyclists are amongst our most vulnerable road users. For them a deterioration in the road surface can result in serious, life-changing injuries,” said Mike Harper, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association. “There is currently a £9.7 billion backlog of local road maintenance, Despite the Chancellor’s recent Budget pledge to provide an additional £2.5 billion to maintain local roads over the next five 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.”

He continued: “The injection of additional funding is welcomed. However, the government needs to examine how to provide assured, long-term funding that will allow local authorities to carry out programmes of preventative maintenance that would keep roads in good condition and stop the potholes from forming the first place.”

ROAD SECTOR WELCOMES POTHOLE FUNDING. NOW, ‘GET IT DONE’

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed the Chancellor’s budget commitment to provide a £2.5bn pothole fund.

Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive, said: “We are pleased that the Chancellor has delivered and provided much needed additional funding to address the significant problem of potholes that is affecting much of our local road network.

It was interesting that when the Chancellor made his pothole funding pledge, his fellow MPs responded with one of the loudest cheers in response to his Budget. This underlines the cross-party support to fix the local road network and in the words of the Chancellor of the need to ‘Get it Done’

However, there is still much that he can do. Whereas the new funding is to be warmly welcomed it must be remembered that it would cost £9.7bn to negate the maintenance backlog and bring the local road network up to a reasonable standard.

We hope that the realisation that the local road network needs help will encourage the Chancellor to recognise that sufficient funding for long-term planned programmes of maintenance would prevent potholes from forming in the first place. It is also a better use of funding as it costs on average £52m2 to repair a pothole against the mere £2.50m2 to surface dress and maintain a road.

To this end, we recommend that the Chancellor examines the potential of injecting a further £1.5 billion a year maintenance backlog by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty and provide a funding settlement that enables planned five-year maintenance programmes.”

NEW CHANCELLOR ADVISED TO DELIVER ROAD PLEDGE

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called upon the new Chancellor Rishi Sunak to not only deliver on the Conservative election manifesto pledge of investing £2 billion to repair potholes but to also provide a mechanism for the long-term, assured investment in road maintenance.  Mr Sunak, is due to present his budget on 11th March.

Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive said: “It costs on average £52m2 to repair a pothole against the mere £2.50m2 to surface dress and maintain a road. A provision of real levels of long-term assured investment would enable highway authorities to implement planned programmes of road maintenance. This would ensure the good condition or road surfaces and prevent defects and potholes from forming in the first place. Preventative maintenance would be a far more cost effective approach that expensive patch-and-mend.”

In addition to delivering the Conservative election manifesto pothole pledge, Harper called upon the Chancellor to commit to an injection of £1.5 billion a year to address the local road £9.7 billion maintenance backlog by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty, provide a funding settlement that enables planned five-year maintenance programmes and address the funding disparity between the strategic road network and the local road network. The strategic road network maintenance receives 53 times more funding per mile than local roads. Yet the vast majority of journeys are undertaken on the local road network.

Harper said: “The local road network is the UK’s greatest infrastructure asset and is worth some £400 billion. With every road journey starting and ending on a local road, a well-maintained local road network is essential to the national social well-being and economic prosperity. Furthermore, post-Brexit, and as part of levelling-up’ the regions, the government wants to prove that Britain is ready and open for business. The provision of a well-maintained local road network is fundamental to achieving that objective.”

ROADS SECTOR CALLS UPON CHANCELLOR TO DELIVER

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called upon the Chancellor to announce in his forthcoming Spring Budget his delivery of the Conservative Party Election Manifesto promise to implement the biggest-ever pothole filling programme worth £2 billion as part of the National Infrastructure Strategy.

Even better would be a real recognition of the national importance of a well-maintained local road network and the implementation of new funding measures for the preventative maintenance programmes that would stop potholes from forming in the first place.

In its pre-budget submission to The Treasury, RSTA underlined that the local road network is the UK’s greatest infrastructure asset and is worth some £400 billion. With every road journey starting and ending on a local road, a well-maintained local road network is essential to the national social well-being and economic prosperity. Furthermore, post-Brexit, the government wishes to prove that Britain is ready and open for business. The provision of a well-maintained local road network is fundamental to achieving that objective.

Yet, despite the local road network’s national importance, successive governments have failed to provide the sustained levels of funding necessary for planned programmes of maintenance and investment. The result? A deteriorating road network where according to the latest AIA ALARM Survey one-in-five roads are in such poor structural condition that they need replacing within five years and it would cost £9.79 billion to bring the network up to an acceptable standard.

Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive, said: “If the Chancellor wishes to demonstrate that he is really serious about improving the national economy and social well-being, levelling-up the north and proving that, the UK is open for business then he must recognise the national importance of investing in a well-maintained local road network.”

In addition to delivering the £2 billion pothole pledge, Harper called upon the Chancellor to commit to an injection of £1.5 billion a year to address the local road maintenance backlog by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty, provide an assured funding settlement that enables planned five-year maintenance programmes and address the funding disparity between the strategic road network and the local road network. The strategic road network maintenance receives 53 times more funding per mile than local roads. Yet the vast majority of journeys are undertaken on the local road network.

Harper continued: “Previous ad-hoc additional funding has been welcomed but this does not address the fundamental problem that the local road network needs long-term, consistent investment if programmes of cost-effective, preventative maintenance are to be implemented.

Furthermore, the timing such one-off funding is problematic.  For example, making additional funds available in November with requirements that they are spent by March – means that the road works have to be carried out largely at the wrong time of year. Proving the assured long-term funding that allows maintenance at the right time of year, with the right surface treatment, in the right place, would extend the life of existing roads and make road budgets go much further.”

NATIONAL POTHOLE DAY: THE VITAL STATISTICS

As part of National Pothole Day (15th January) the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has published an updated compendium of facts and figures behind the UK’s deteriorating local road network together with a range of recommendations to address the issue. The statistics cover the last 12 months and are pulled from a wide range of government and industry sources.

Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive said: “‘Potholes: the vital statistics’ provides the facts and figures that clearly demonstrate the need to invest in a well-maintained local road network.”

Key statistics include the £9.79bn that the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey reports would cost to bring the local road network up to an acceptable standard and the fact that, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, if you combined the depth of all of the potholes in England it would reach 28km – that is 25 times the depth of the Grand Canyon. Pot holes are also potentially dangerous with Confused.com reporting that one-in-three drivers have had an accident because of a pothole.

RSTA is calling for a number of actions to address the issue of deteriorating local roads. Harper said: “Proper maintenance of the local road network needs long-term, consistent investment if programmes of cost-effective, preventative maintenance rather than expensive short-term patch-up are to be implemented. Intervening at the right time of year, with the right surface treatment, in the right place, would extend the life of existing roads and make road maintenance budgets go much further.”

Specific actions that should be considered include injecting £1.5 billion a year to address the local road maintenance backlog by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty, providing assured funding settlement that enables planned five-year maintenance programmes and further collaboration between local highway authorities and the supply chain to forward the exchange of best practice and realise potential joint cost efficiencies

‘Potholes: The Vital Statistics’ is available as a free download from: https://bit.ly/2QRP8G8

FULFILLING POTHOLE PLEDGE WOULD BE EARLY WIN FOR PRIME MINISTER

According to media reports the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is hitting the ground running. The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) advises him to ensure that he avoids the potholes.

The Conservatives manifesto pledged an additional £2 billion over the next four years to repair the road network as part of a National Infrastructure Strategy calling it the ‘biggest ever pot-hole filling programme’. This has been warmly welcomed by the RSTA as a recognition that increased funding for the the local road network is essential if the decades of under-investment is to be addressed. The overall condition of local road network has deteriorated to such an extent that the latest ALARM Survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance reports that one-in-five roads are in such a poor condition that they will need replacing within five years.

“Improving the local road network would be an immediate and real sign that the Government is investing in local communities and local economies”, said Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive. “The additional funding over the next 4 years would give highway authorities increased means to not only repair our roads but to develop and implement proactive programmes of maintenance that would stop the potholes from forming in the first place.”

ELECTION MANIFESTO PROMISES END TO POTHOLED ROADS

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) was welcomed the positioning of the poor state of the local road network as a key election issue for the two major political parties.

As a result of decades of under-investment the overall condition of local road network has deteriorated to such an extent that the latest ALARM Survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance reports that one-in-five roads are in such a poor condition that they will need replacing within five years. The survey calculates that it would take ten years and cost £9.8 billion to bring the road network up to scratch.

The Conservatives manifesto has pledged an additional £2 billion over the next four years to repair the road network as part of a National Infrastructure Strategy calling it the ‘biggest ever pot-hole filling programme’. Labour has said it would invest to make ‘neglected local roads safer for drivers’. The other political parties have concentrated on bus and rail services.

“RSTA has long campaigned for the socio-economic importance of a well-maintained road network to be recognised and the necessary levels of funding investment to be provided,” said Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive. “We warmly welcomed the inclusion of pledges to improve the road network in the Conservative and Labour manifestos. We hope that these promises are carried through. £2 billion over 4 years – if additional funding – is a substantial and useful amount to invest to make a real change.

However, that change will not come from just ‘filling potholes’ but from implementing proactive maintenance programmes that call upon the vast array of proven road surface treatments that would keep roads in a safe and serviceable condition and avoid potholes from forming in the first place.”

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES’ SILVER LINING FOR BETTER ROAD MAINTENANCE?

The introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could result in a better maintained local road network believes the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

Current live trials are pushing the momentum for the future introduction of driverless cars. In South London, driverless taxis car are currently being tested by FiveAL. The trials will test self-driving software on real busy roads in Croydon and Bromley. Trained drivers will be present in case something goes wrong. Also in London, focused on zones 1,2 and 3, Wayve are trialling eight driverless Jaguar I-Pace SUVs. Meanwhile, by the end of this year HumanDrive will have completed a 230 mile journey across the UK to test an AV in real road driving conditions from country roads to motorways.

The future benefits of self-driving cars include less accidents, improved use of road space, reduced congestion and pollution and more efficient fuel consumption. AVs would be equipped to ‘read the road’ and replicate the instinctive human ability to simultaneously observe, analyse, decide and react to every potential different road scenario such as potholes and reduced skid resistance.

“There is a flaw in the plan. The deterioration of the local road network due to decades on under-investment means that that rather than a vision of fast, smooth, well-spaced self-driving cars, the reality could be that poor road surfaces will cause the vehicles to switch to slow safety mode and signal constant warnings of approaching poor road surface conditions”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive.

However, Harper believes that the AVs having to go into repetitive safe mode could have a silver lining for local road investment. “Having to go into safe move would highlight the poor condition of the road surface and the need to do something about it. This would help local authorities with their business case for more funding to invest in local roads.”

Sensors fitted to AVs could provide live data on the road condition and so help local authorities not only know where pothole repairs are need but could provide the information necessary for planned programmes of maintenance.

Harper points to a research project being undertaken by Transport Scotland, Transport for West Midlands and Jaguar Land Rover to develop a system that enables AVs to spot and report potholes. Using a platform created by transport analytics firm Inrix, the AV Road Rules system would have a link to local road authorities alerting them to road damage or potholes to enable fast and efficient repair.

He said: “This is where AV’s could have a very useful role in improving the condition of our roads. Their adoption would provide real-time data that could prove valuable in developing and implementing surface dressing and maintenance programmes using a range of surface treatments, at the earliest signs of decay that would prevent potholes from forming in the first place.

AVs are being trialled as the future. This future should be one where potholes are prevented from forming as part of a well-managed, long term approach to road maintenance using the range of innovative, cost-effective surface treatments already available through RSTA members.”

RSTA welcomes Department for Transport’s local road funding commitment

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed the commitment by the Department for Transport (DfT) to make the case to HM Treasury for a long-term funding settlement that addresses the backlog of pothole repairs.

The DfT’s pledge is contained in the Government’s response to the Transport Committee’s report ‘Local road funding and maintenance: filling the gap’ to which the RSTA provided evidence of the results of decades of under-investment in local road maintenance and of the need for an assured long-term funding settlement that enables councils to plan and implement effective programmes of repair and maintenance.

Funding for local highway authorities is via a combination of capital funding from the DfT highways maintenance block plus revenue funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. DfT is to work with government department to develop and submit a business case for a front-loaded long-term funding for local highway maintenance to be included in the future Spending Review.

“We have been calling for such a measure for several years and so this commitment by the DfT is warmly welcomed,” said Mike Harper RSTA chief executive. “The certainty of front-loaded, long-term funding would allow highway engineers and asset managers to make better, longer term decisions, which will lead to a more resilient network, fewer potholes and a lower whole life cost for roads. It would result in more forward planning ensuring that cost effective surface treatments can be planned into a preventative maintenance programmes that prevent potholes from forming in the first place.”

He continued: “We are delighted that our recommendations have been heard by DfT and central government and we look forward to continuing to work with DfT to promote the innovative and collaborative thinking that will make maintenance funding go much further.”